Buffy Summers is an all-time heroic icon of genre TV. Resourceful, fierce, sharp-witted and always prepared for a pun, Buffy was designed as a character for both girls and boys to look up to in Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
She’s a hero for the modern teenager, balancing all of the classic high school issues with fighting vampires, demons and preventing the apocalypse. But like all of the great heroes, Buffy is an incredibly relatable and realistic character, and that means she’s been known to suffer. She’s gone through some tremendous heartache throughout the seven seasons of the show.
If there’s one thing Buffy has consistently proven, it’s that she’s at her best when things are at their worst. When everything is stacked against her, when nothing is going her way, she will still find a way to do the right thing.
We’re going to be looking at the worst things that have ever happened to Buffy, from experiences she’s had in both her personal life and her life as the slayer. From losing loved ones, to sacrificing them, to even her own death, these are the absolute worst things that have ever happened to Buffy.
Here are the 20 Worst Things To Ever Happen To Buffy on Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
20 Being Torn Out of Heaven and Forced to Crawl Out of Her Own Grave
Buffy’s death was a big moment, but her resurrection is a trauma of an entirely different kind. Her friends don’t know that she’s actually at peace. They think-- without any real or logical reason-- that she might be in a hell dimension because they just want her back.
However, they assume the spell didn’t work in the chaos of demons invading their town, so they leave Buffy to wake up suffocating in a coffin, forced to crawl out of her own grave. She’s completely disoriented, alone, doesn’t understand anything happening around her. From where she’s standing, this looks like hell.
Her first instinct in all of this is to return to the tower and attempt to repeat her own death. For viewers, this is the first big indicator of the season that Buffy did not want to come back.
19 Being Manipulated Into Thinking She Killed Someone
“Dead Things” is a major tonal shift for season six. Even though it’s an oppressively dark season, the Trio— though they’re introduced as villains— are typically our comic relief up to this point. However, everything they do in this episode is horrifying.
They’re going to find a woman to hypnotize into being their love slave, which is very obviously wrong, even though they don’t seem to understand that. Warren selects his ex-girlfriend and when the spell breaks off, he gets violent and accidentally kills her. Immediately, he hatches the solution of trying to pin this on Buffy by manipulating her into thinking she’d accidentally killed this girl on a routine patrol.
Buffy deals with the shock, horror and guilt of accidentally killing someone throughout this entire episode. It comes at the worst possible time, when Buffy already has a terrible opinion of herself and is actively punishing herself. This is a gross manipulation and definitely changes the way viewers look at The Trio as the season progresses.
18 Spending Time in an Institution After Telling Her Parents She’s the Slayer
The most shocking reveal in “Normal Again” is actually learning that Buffy really has been in an institution before, albeit briefly. Not only that, but her big coming out scene in “Becoming” isn’t actually the first time she’s tried to tell her mother she’s the slayer.
When she first attempted to tell her parents just after becoming the slayer, they immediately sought psychiatric help and Buffy spent a brief time in the hospital.
All of Buffy’s delusions in “Normal Again” are spring boarding off a real-life incident, one that she’s never told any of her friends about. It’s a time in Buffy’s life that is never actually shown to the audience, but it is clear to tell the impact it had and continues to have on her well into the show.
17 Killing Angel, Getting Expelled And Getting Kicked Out of Home All On The Same Day
There’s a reason “Becoming Parts 1 & 2” are known as some of the most devastating episodes of Buffy and maybe of any TV show in recent history. Everything that can go terribly wrong for Buffy does go wrong-- all at once.
She’s preparing herself for the final fight against Angelus. Kendra, her slayer colleague, is killed by Drusilla and Buffy is found standing over the body. This turns her into a fugitive and also gets her expelled from the school. When she tells her mother that she’s the slayer, she winds up getting kicked out of home.
And then there’s the fight with Angelus. She beats him, but the spell works a moment too late. His soul is restored just after the portal that can only be closed by his blood is open, not before. When Buffy has to kill Angel again, he’s actually Angel.
He’s her lover returned to her after months of wishing and hoping. However, Buffy does what she has to do to save the world. After everything that happens, when Buffy just hops on a bus out of town at the end of the episode, no one can really blame her.
16 Her Mother’s Death
It’s a brutal moment, especially because it comes at the end of a reasonably light episode. Buffy fights Warren’s robotic ex-girlfriend and then walks home as if it’s any other day in Sunnydale, only to find her mother’s body dead on the couch.
From there, the episode “The Body” begins, which is one of the most unsettling and brutally honest depictions of death in TV history. This loss is especially hard because it it’s just so real.
Buffy loses her mother to an aneurysm. There’s nothing remotely supernatural about it. It’s as jarring for the characters as it is for the audience, because both groups are expecting everything on Buffy to have some kind of magical twist. Not this time.
This is a harshly realistic depiction of death and the fact that it happens in the middle of such a largely unrealistic show only makes it that much more prominent.
15 Her Destructive, Post-Resurrection Relationship With Spike
In season seven, after Spike gets his soul back, things are much healthier between them and they have a deep respect and understanding for each other.
In season six, though, it’s all a great big mess. This relationship is the worst thing that could happen to either of them at this moment. Buffy sleeps with Spike but it makes her feel terrible. She just wants to be noticed, to be touched, but it’s the shame of it that she appears to be addicted to. Spike, meanwhile, is simply being used and couldn’t care less because he’s completely obsessed with her.
The brutal crux of this relationship is the disgustingly uncomfortable moment toward the end of the season when Spike comes to confront Buffy about their relationship and winds up trying to assault her.
The intent is to remind the audience that Spike is still soulless at this point and doesn’t know right from wrong, leading him toward a path of gaining his soul back to win back her trust. However, it’s been almost universally acknowledged by fans as a scene that goes way, way too far.
However, this is not meant to convey her entire relationship with Spike.
14 Angel Turning Evil After Sleeping With Her For the First Time
This is one of the first moments that any fan would bring up when they think of the worst things to ever happen to Buffy. It might be the first truly heartbreaking moment of the show. Angel and Buffy sleep together, she wakes up the next morning and he’s not there.
When she returns the next day, he brushes off the whole thing-- he treats her badly and acts like way too many guys do the morning after. That’s the point, of course: to give Buffy a situation that so many girls can relate to, as supernatural as it might be in this case.
It’s still traumatizing for Buffy, especially when she learns that Angel’s lost his soul and that it’s specifically the act of them sleeping together that caused this to happen in the first place. Even with everything she’d faced before, the fact that Buffy was able to move forward from this showed a whole new kind of strength that viewers hadn’t really seen before.
13 Nearly Being Driven Mad by The Trio And Trying to Kill Her Friends As A Result
In one of their many plans to take out the slayer, The Trio unleashes a demon that causes hallucinations. For Buffy, those hallucinations manifest as a reality in which she is in an institution, her parents are still together, and being the slayer is just an elaborate fantasy inside her own mind.
It’s a comfortable reality, certainly much more believable on paper. Buffy gives herself over to it because she wants it to be true. She thinks her friends, Sunnydale, everything around her is the real hallucination.
When her “doctor” tells her to destroy these figments of her imagination, she attacks each of her friends, even Dawn, and forces them down into the basement where she plans to kill them by feeding them to the demon. Obviously, she’s stopped before that can happen and the demon is defeated, but it absolutely stands as one of Buffy’s lowest moments.
12 Being Forced to Fight Willow to Stop Her From Ending the World
Willow and Buffy have not always seen eye-to-eye in the past, they’ve always had each others’ backs. They’re best friends. In season six, the only real Big Bads that viewers are introduced to are three nerdy losers calling themselves The Trio.
One of the said losers accidentally kills Tara, it becomes immediately clear that the Big Bad this season has been building to from the very beginning is none other than Willow herself. She’s given herself over to the abuse of magic. She’s used it for whatever she wants. Now she’s grieving, irrational and immensely powerful.
Having to face off against her best friend is without a doubt one of the worst things to happen to Buffy in her career as the slayer. This is the last person on the planet she wants to fight, especially after something as tragic as Tara’s death.
She wants to be there for Willow to comfort her. It’s not like she doesn’t understand tragic loss, having just lost her mother the previous year. Any moment in which Buffy has to consider for even a second whether or not she needs to kill Willow to save the world has to be one of Buffy’s worst.
11 Having to Work At Doublemeat Palace to Make Ends Meet
This doesn’t sound that terrible on paper. Many people have had to take service jobs that they didn’t really want in order to get by. But for Buffy, this represents a harsh introduction into adulthood and joining the work force. She can’t pay the bills being the slayer and she’s never really had to pay the bills at all.
Throughout most of the series up to this point, she’s been a student and has had her mother to back her up if she ever reached a point of financial desperation. But Buffy takes time off when her mom gets sick and dies shortly after her mother does.
When Buffy returns from the grave, she finds out that her mom's hospital bills ate up all the remaining money and she has nothing. She has to get a job and she finds one at Doublemeat Palace, a burger joint where—naturally—the employees are being picked off by a grease-loving demon.
It’s the jarring nature of having to work such a crappy job on top of everything in her life that’s crumbling at the time that makes this a worthy entry.
10 Getting Abandoned by Parker
When Buffy sleeps with someone for the first time, it’s with Angel. Immediately after, he loses his soul and becomes the season’s big bad, eventually trying to end the world. Before that, he breaks her heart by humiliating her and acting like a complete tool the morning after. When Buffy has sleeps with someone for the second time, it’s not nearly as heart-wrenchingly dramatic, but it does sting.
Parker is the first nice boy she meets at college. He makes her feel special when she’s completely overwhelmed. They make love and, this time, it turns out that he was just a complete tool the whole time, saying whatever he could to get into her pants. Many argue that Buffy is simply naïve in this situation, but she’s still taken advantage of in a pretty gross way and deserves better than that, for sure.
9 Getting Kicked Out of Her Own House
Buffy leads an attack against Caleb, a follower of The First Evil who she knows is hiding something she will need if she is to win the coming battle, even if she doesn’t know what it is. The others put their trust in her and launch an attack on Caleb only to suffer an absolutely devastating defeat.
Potential slayers are killed and Xander loses an eye. Buffy’s next plan of attack is to go right back when Caleb is least expecting another attack, and absolutely no one is on her side. For the first time, all of her friends and even her sister are against her.
With the amount of trust everyone has had in Buffy over seven seasons and the way all of her friends have looked up to her from the very beginning, this is a brutal defeat. It’s heartbreaking. It’s even more bittersweet when Buffy goes back on her own and learns that she was completely right and that, if her friends had followed her in again, it would have worked out.
Buffy has gone through a lot in her time as the slayer. She’s even, as she’s quick to note in the musical “died twice.” In theory, those would be the biggest entries on this list, but the truth is that the two deaths really aren’t that comparable.
The first time is very technical. When she faces off against The Master in season one, he drowns her in small pool forming inside his cavernous lair. Her heart stops for a moment and she is brought back via CPR when Xander finds her.
It’s an event in her life that’s traumatizing enough to make the list, but pales in comparison to her later death in which she actually goes to Heaven— or the closest thing, at least— and in which her body spends three months rotting in the ground.
Many people have suffered the exact same “death” as Buffy’s drowning in their lives, which probably makes it one of the first instances of a truly grounded moment of horror in the show.
7 Angel Breaking Up With Her and Leaving Without Saying Goodbye
Again, this might not stack up against some of the monumental things she faces later on, but at the time this is completely devastating for Buffy. After the horrific things that happen to their relationship in season two, Buffy is ecstatic to form a genuine, healthy relationship with Angel in the second half of season three.
However, she’s not owning up to the realities of their dating situation. She’s a teenager in love who’s not concerned with the fact that they can never really be together. They don’t have a future together.
Angel sees that and takes it upon himself to break up with her. He’s not kind about it because he thinks that making it devastating for her will make it easier for both of them. Part of what makes this one of the worst things to happen to Buffy is that even if he’s ultimately right, Angel completely talks down to her during all of this. Buffy’s smitten, but she’s not stupid and certainly would have arrived at the same conclusions on her own.
6 Having to Watch Riley Leave
Buffy has always been fantastic at emotional sendoffs for major characters, whether those characters are dying or simply leaving the show.
That’s clearly embodied in the season five episode “Into the Woods”, in which Buffy is forced to watch Riley fly away in a helicopter, thinking she’ll never see him again, calling out for him to stay without him even seeing her standing below him. That’s the gut punch: Riley goes away thinking that Buffy made the decision to let him leave.
The fact that Riley’s departure makes the list over Angel’s departure when Riley is a character most fans hated only proves how fantastic this show could be with scenes exactly like this. Even though Riley does come back for an episode in season six, most of the heavy emotional context of this scene remains unaddressed. Even for people who hated their relationship, this is a profoundly emotional moment.
5 Swapping Bodies With Faith
The relationship between Buffy and Faith is extremely complicated. At first, they can’t stand each other, left with the feeling that the town is only big enough for one slayer. However, they then share a connection in being the slayer that they can’t share with anyone else.
They come to really rely on each other before Faith begins her downward spiral. They never really understand each other, though. They’re from two completely different worlds. Faith always gets this a bit more than Buffy. Buffy always thinks she can try to get what Faith is going through, but she’s never walked a day in her shoes.
When they switch bodies, it’s a revelation for both of them. Faith is overwhelmed by the closeness of everything in Buffy’s life, the friends, family, boyfriend— all of it. Buffy, meanwhile, gets a first-hand account of exactly what it means to be Faith.
She’s treated like dirt, almost killed, completely taken advantage of, has no friends or family to rely on in order to get herself out of this situation. It’s an understanding of the other that they both needed to some degree, but certainly never wanted.
4 Starting a New Relationship With Angel, Only For Him To Turn Back Time
The events of the Angel episode “I Will Remember You” are so devastating that even people who hate the Buffy/Angel relationship admit that it’s a truly heartbreaking episode. Angel and Buffy get their ultimate wish...
He’s infected by a demon and becomes human again. They can finally, for the first time, start a normal and healthy relationship. They can do couple things. They can walk the beach, go out to dinner, sleep together as much as they want without having to worry about a curse.
However, Angel realizes that neither of them can do their jobs if he’s human. He’s too reckless and she’s having to worry about keeping him out of harm’s way. So he convinces the Fates to take the day back. Some might argue that this might not warrant a place on the list if Buffy doesn’t remember it happening, but it did happen.
Angel always lives with the memory of it and, regardless, those moments in which Angel tells her that he’s going to take the day back are as heartbroken and wounded as we have ever seen Buffy get.
3 Being Betrayed by Giles
In this season three episode, Buffy starts to lose her powers. She doesn’t know how or why this is happening to her. Giles is without answers. Buffy’s eighteenth birthday is happening around the same time, she’s already anxious after last year’s horrible birthday, and now she has to worry about whether or not she’s simply going to lose her slayer powers.
She’s worried and terrified and feels especially betrayed when she learns that this is all part of a test by the Watcher’s Council.
They temporarily suppress a slayer’s power on her eighteenth birthday to have her face off against a vampire without any of her special abilities. When she learns that Giles is the one who’s been secretly drugging her and lying to her about it, it’s an absolute betrayal. Not to mention that the vampire she’s supposed to kill breaks free and kidnaps her mother or that Giles ultimately loses his job in standing up for Buffy.
2 Discovering a Robot Duplicate of Herself Built By Warren
By this point in season five, Buffy has already discovered that Spike is weirdly obsessed with her. He’s evil and has only been an ally of the group for a very short time, so she’s naturally creeped out. Still, he can’t hurt anyone, so nothing is really done about it.
After her mother’s death, Buffy takes a retreat into the desert with Giles, unaware that Spike is taking his new robot Buffy out for a spin. Warren’s specialty is creating gross love-bots, so he engineers the Buffy Bot specifically for Spike. It’s a gross, gross concept.
What almost makes Buffy even more uncomfortable is that, because of how cut-off she’s been after her mom’s death, her friends can’t actually tell at first that the robot is a robot and assume that she’s the real Buffy.
The whole concept of the Buffybot is a gross violation to Buffy on many different levels. Surprisingly enough, this is also the same time that Buffy learns that, despite his disgusting obsession, Spike truly cares for her on some level, as he refuses to give up any kind of information when kidnapped and tortured by Glory.
The ultimate sacrifice any hero can make is to sacrifice themselves. Buffy learns this in “The Gift”, the finale of season five. It’s been hinted at for some time. Earlier in the season the first slayer tells her that death is her gift and Buffy doesn’t know what that means. I
t even dates back to “Graduation Day”, in which a clock counts down the exact number of days to Buffy’s death. The writing has been on the wall for some time. Buffy realizes that this is the right thing to do, but it’s a devastating moment for everyone. Viewers, the Scoobies and especially for Buffy herself.
Her death in “The Gift” also sets up her resurrection in season six, which explores Buffy dealing with serious depression after finding herself flung back into the world for no real reason at all and expected to be a part of it as if nothing has changed. Her death and resurrection combined might be the most traumatizing things Buffy has ever experienced.
Can you think of any other tragic things that have happened to Buffy in Buffy The Vampire Slayer that we forgot to mention? Let us know in the comment section!