Over its seven seasons, Buffy the Vampire Slayer became known for its deep bench of Big Bads. These characters ran the gamut from sinister to kind of sympathetic.
Yet during its run, Buffy also included a plethora of monsters of the week. These single shot antagonists only appeared in one episode. In that time, some made quite an impression and contributed something to the series as a whole. Then, there were the monsters that just didn’t work. They didn’t advance the story, reveal something new or interesting, or add anything to the show. Here, we explore monsters that fall into both categories.
These are Buffy’s best and worst monsters of the week.
10 WORST: RAZOR (BARGAINING, PARTS ONE AND TWO)
Okay, technically Razor was in two episodes, but he was limited to the two-part premiere of Buffy’s sixth season. Razor was the leader of a demon biker gang that came to Sunnydale when they learned the Slayer was no more. He has a lot of piercings and Freddy-Kruger-like claws, and along with his gang, he causes a lot of mayhem. Other than that, there’s not much to him.
Razor and his gang are unruly and terrorize the public, but unlike so many Buffy demons, they aren’t a metaphor for anything. They’re just a biker gang that happens to be made up of demons, making them pretty mundane for a show that usually traffics in much more thought-provoking characters. Also, Razor met his end at the hands of Tara. ‘Nuff said.
9 BEST: HOLDEN WEBSTER (CONVERSATIONS WITH DEAD PEOPLE)
Holden Webster doesn’t seem like the most obvious monster of the week. A former high school classmate of Buffy’s, she discovered him just as he arose from his grave as a vampire for the first time.
Holden never posed a mortal threat to Buffy, even with the two years of tae kwon do training he said he had. Ultimately Holden made a much bigger impact with his partially completed psychology major and internship experience at Sunnydale Mental Hospital. He used his psychology knowledge to counsel Buffy on her problems. This led to a memorable conversation in which Buffy was able to delve into all the issues troubling her. Eventually, Buffy took Holden out, but not before he’d made a memorable impression.
8 WORST: MOLOCH (I ROBOT, YOU JANE)
Moloch appeared in season 1 just as Buffy was getting its sea legs. This monster of the week must have seemed like a good idea at the time. A demon who is released onto the internet when Willow scans the book he’s trapped in, Moloch tempts his victims with promises of love and power. Posing as a boy named Malcolm Black, Moloch seduced Willow and several other students over the internet, while also coercing a company into creating a robot body for him.
The episode came out when the internet was still new technology and the idea of interacting through it seemed dangerous. Moloch takes those fears to their extreme. It’s not an especially inspired or involving metaphor though, and today it comes across as a bit of techno-paranoia that no longer applies.
7 BEST: SWEET (ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING)
Sweet was the demon behind the singing in Buffy's beloved musical episode, “Once More, with Feeling.” When he was called via a talisman, he appeared in Sunnydale and soon the whole town was bursting into song — and then bursting into flames.
Although Sweet doesn’t inflict much obvious damage on the Scooby Gang, by using their songs to make them share the truths they’ve been hiding from one another, he rattles the group more than perhaps any other demon had in quite a while. Plus, he did it with a bravura cool, a smooth song, and a wicked soft-shoe number.
6 WORST: LISSA (FIRST DATE)
Many shows include celebrity guest spots to draw interest and goose ratings. Buffy didn’t often engage in those tactics, but in this season 7 episode it decided to include pop star Ashanti as Lissa, a demon who wants to prove her allegiance to the First Evil.
When Lissa met Xander and he asked her out for a date, she decided he was the perfect mark to use for a ritual sacrifice in the First’s honor. The gag is that Xander always ends up dating demons, something the show joked about from the beginning. Unfortunately, Lissa is an uninspired monster of the week whose presence does nothing to move the plot forward.
5 BEST: GACHNAR (FEAR, ITSELF)
“Fear me!” Gachnar was a fear demon who was accidentally summoned to a Halloween party at a UC Sunnydale frat house that Buffy and the gang attended. Soon, the house trapped everyone inside and brought forth their greatest fears. Buffy is separated from her friends, Xander can no longer be seen or heard, Willow’s magic spell turns against her, and Oz starts to turn into a werewolf even though it’s not a full moon.
In the end, the build up to Gachnar coming forth is a lot more impressive than his actual entrance. Although Giles forces his way into the house and tells everyone they must prevent Gachnar from fully manifesting, when Buffy accidentally releases him anyway, they find he’s more cute than scary. Turns out Gachnar is the size of his illustration on the page in Giles’ book. So, when he instructs the Scooby Gang to tremble before him, it’s adorable. Gachnar ultimately meets his end when Buffy squashes him like a bug.
4 WORST: SPAWN OF SOBEK (SHADOW)
The Spawn of Sobek was the snake-like demon that season 5’s Big Bad, Glory, attempted to use to find the Key. The demon was made from a transmogrified cobra. While this made it huge and strong, it seemed like overkill considering it was made to gather information, not take on Buffy.
Buffy featured snake demons before, but this one was perhaps the silliest looking of the bunch. It was more menacing as the pre-transmogrified cobra than as the unconvincing-looking demon. And the image of Buffy riding it as she pummeled it into submission was more ridiculous than scary. An inglorious beginning to Glory’s reign of terror.
3 BEST: THE GENTLEMEN (HUSH)
No list of Buffy monsters of the week would be complete without mentioning the Gentlemen, the creepy creatures from the revered episode, “Hush.” The Gentlemen were the stuff of nightmares, literally. Buffy dreamed about them along with the nursery rhyme that explained their sinister objective — to take seven hearts while no one can be heard.
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Soon, Buffy’s dream comes true as the Gentlemen render the citizens of Sunnydale mute and perform heart extractions on victims who can only scream soundlessly in response. While the Gentlemen look scary, their courteous manner towards one another and ability to float instead of walk makes them even more unsettling.
2 WORST: TAINTED BEER (BEER BAD)
The fourth season episode “Beer Bad” is considered by many fans to be Buffy’s worst. Buffy is having a hard time adjusting to college life and has just been used and dumped by Parker. So she visits the local bar where Xander recently started working. There, she meets a group of guys eager to entertain her — with beer.
However, this beer has an extra-special ingredient that turns them all into cave people. The owner of the bar cooked up the special brew to take revenge on the obnoxious college kids he’d been serving for 20 years. The episode was meant to be a metaphor for the twin horrors of drinking and casual affairs, but the message came across as obvious and prudish in a series that was usually anything but.
1 BEST: GNARL (SAME TIME, SAME PLACE)
Gnarl came to Sunnydale around the same time Willow returned in season 7, after she'd become the Big Bad of the previous season. When Buffy, Xander, and Dawn find a boy missing his skin at a construction site, they assume Willow's to blame since she did the same thing to Warren. Actually, though, the culprit is a creature called Gnarl, who paralyzes his victims with his long finger nails and then spends hours stripping and eating their skin. Yum!
Between his sing-songy, third-person speeches while he’s torturing his victims and his Gollum-like character design, Gnarl is truly one of the most memorable. We’re just glad we only had to spend a single episode with this sadistic monster.