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Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The 6 Best And 6 Worst Episodes

Even in the wake of all the revelations about Joss Whedon's abusive behavior on multiple sets, including "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," this franchise's legacy stands strong. Five years after Whedon's first attempt at telling his Slayer-centric story via the 1992 movie starring Kirsty Swanson, Donald Sutherland, and Luke Perry, he prefaced the golden age of television with this Emmy-nominated show starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. It easily overshadows its feature-length counterpart. And when a late '90s coming-of-age science-fiction/horror/drama about a petite, preppy blonde kicking some major vampire butt with her friends and mentor spawns expansive academic studies, you know you have something revolutionary. But even the most enduring shows have some real flops. We consulted an array of sources to present you with this list of the six best and six worst episodes of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." In the process we learned, not surprisingly, that the worst episodes of "Buffy" fall flat because they lack the depth and character development that make the best episodes so remarkable.

Best: The Zeppo (Season 3, Episode 13)

While the worst episodes of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" lack the layers we learned to expect from the groundbreaking series, the best offer an incredible amount of substance, including season three charmer "The Zeppo," which packs a surprising amount for the fun, tangential story that it is. Ranked in the top five of CBR's list of funniest "Buffy" episodes, and with Reddit users like u/NewShinyThings and u/Overlord1317 flocking to the forums to declare their love, this one's definitely a fan favorite. Think of it as Xander's coming-of-age story. According to Den of Geek, like him or hate him, "The Zeppo" features "Xander at his best. He's funny, brave, and relatable. He proves that his contribution to the fight against evil, while not as obvious as that of a Slayer's strength, a Watcher's wisdom, or a witch's magic, is no less substantial given an opportunity to shine." We see the entire episode through his eyes after he's shoved aside to fetch donuts while the rest of the Scoobies take on some bizarre apocalypse that involves Giles talking to a cloud. As he stumbles into his own hilarious mess with a group of resurrected high schoolers trying to make a "cake" (that is, a bomb), we watch his character grow in an enjoyable way. The episode also pokes gentle fun at some of its own story tropes, which includes taking Buffy and Angel's star-crossed lover status to an absurd level. That's a real treat!

Worst: I, Robot ... You, Jane (Season 1, Episode 8)

In "I, Robot ... You, Jane," our lovable, nerdy bookworm Willow (Alyson Hannigan) falls prey to a dangerous online pen pal after she digitally scans some books for Giles (Anthony Head). In the Buffyverse, rather than some creep trying to lure her somewhere, Willow's behind-the-screen "pal" turns out to be an ancient, murderous demon that she accidentally frees into the ether of the Internet via the spell she scanned. We should all know by now not to read the Necronomicon out loud. We should probably also know not to scan ancient spells from old library books into computer systems. But it's the late '90s when this story takes place, and the Internet is only just starting to boom, so maybe we should give them a small pass on that. The A.V. Club's Noel Murray rates this one a paltry D+, concluding that it's a "misfire: corny, tonally off and lacking even the illusion of depth." This "Buffy" episode earns a solid place as one of the show's worst.

Best: Restless (Season 4, Episode 22)

Not many television shows manage to incorporate dream sequences in adequately satisfying ways. There's "Twin Peaks" and "The Sopranos," of course, but other than those two notable examples, true success stories are few and far between. "Restless," though, really hits its mark. Considered top tier "Buffy" by The Guardian, and often described as trippy and surreal, this gem of an episode offers the incredibly well-rendered and off-putting dreams of our sleep-deprived Scoobies Willow, Xander, Giles, and Buffy. It also features the Cheese Man, a character — or construct — that carries individual slices of cheese around and visits the Scoobies in their dreams. Years later, he still fascinates "Buffy" fans. Joss Whedon claims the Cheese Man has no real meaning, but that hasn't stopped fandom discussion about it. As the finale of a season in which the Big Bad — that is, the Initiative-created Frankenstein-type monster Adam, courtesy of Dr. Maggie Walsh — is defeated in the penultimate episode, "Restless" presents us with a layered denouement. Serving as a satisfying bridge between Season 4 and Season 5, and artfully balancing the surreal with the profound, the episode is also notable in that it foreshadows the introduction of Buffy's little sister Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg).

Worst: Bad Eggs (Season 2, Episode 12)

For Season 2, a sophomore outing that largely explores sexual awakening and the consequences that come with it, "Bad Eggs" is at least thematically on point with its "health teacher puts his students into pairs and assigns them an egg to take care of" premise. "Buffy" hadn't fully realized its strengths yet, and it really shows here. Rather than a character-focused coming-of-age episode, which the premise might suggest, we instead get a shallow "monster of the week" affair. Turns out the eggs that our Sunnydale students are tasked with caring for are the offspring of a giant parasite that dwells in the high school basement (the building is right on top of the Hellmouth, after all). Once the eggs hatch, the little monsters inside latch onto their caretakers and seize control of mind and body, turning the students into the hostess of an ancient parasite's offspring. Vox stashes this one in its "overly literal and unhelpful metaphors" list of "Buffy episodes, Screen Rant's Katherine Webb lists it as one of the show's worst, and it sits at a dismal 6.5 on IMDb.

Best: Once More, With Feeling (Season 6, Episode 7)

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" boasts one of the most popular and well-received musical episodes in television history with "Once More, With Feeling." With Anthony Head's vocal skills, Michelle Trachtenberg's ballet training, and Amber Benson's voice, you already have quite the foundation for a solid musical endeavor, and the cast and crew put in a lot of extra work to prepare for this one. When a demon arrives, people start singing and dancing at random. It's kind of nice until they start to also spontaneously combust. "Once More, With Feeling" explores the characters' current struggles in song. Well-received enough to have the entire musical soundtrack available on Spotify at the time of this writing — a couple decades later — this episode provides a shining beacon that breathes some life into an otherwise bleak season largely concerned with Buffy's devastating depression over being alive again and Willow's growing addiction to dark magic. By the end, the characters are no less lost than they were when they first started singing and dancing their hearts out. Xander and Anya are still uncertain about their upcoming marriage. Giles is still planning to leave. But the Scoobies now know they ripped Buffy from Heaven, Willow and Tara's relationship has fractured, and the crackling chemistry between Buffy and Spike has finally paid off. This musical stint also prefaces James Marsters' successful music career.

Worst: Where the Wild Things Are (Season 4, Episode 18)

A significant chunk of "Where the Wild Things Are" features Buffy and her college boyfriend and vampire- and demon-slaying partner, Riley (Marc Blucas), having obsessive, all-consuming sex. During a frat party, the pair's near-constant lovemaking awakens poltergeists that cause a disturbing amount of chaos, and the rest of the Scoobies must discover the source of the madness before our ravishing couple dies in the throes of exhausting passion. With minimal research, it's unveiled that the frat house used to be an orphanage. It doesn't take the Scooby Gang long to track down the woman who ran things when the Lowell building was the Lowell Home for Children. When they do, they learn that she did terrible things to the children when they were "dirty." This easily solved mystery is the most compelling part of the story, but it's overshadowed by Buffy and Riley's bedroom adventures. With Vox considering this rock bottom "Buffy," and with its 6.6 rating on IMDb, this is one of the show's weakest installments. It probably doesn't help that "Where the Wild Things Are" spares little time for any larger plot developments with the Initiative or Adam, even as the season nears its end.

Best: Hush (Season 4, Episode 10)

Technically masterful in terms of the musical score, the practical effects, and the monster makeup, "Hush" takes great care to indulge in the fairytale and story limitations it imposes on itself. The grotesque-looking Gentlemen arrive in Sunnydale one night, while everyone's asleep, with plans to steal seven hearts from seven unfortunate victims. The suited monsters use a wooden box to collect all voices until their task is complete. When the townsfolk wake in the morning and discover they're all mute, humorously apocalyptic chaos reigns. Sunnydale's reaction to being silenced is a wonderful and whimsical blend of horror and comedy. The whole episode is full of funny charades and terrifying images. It also serves as a "big reveal" for Buffy and Riley as they discover each other's hidden truths — that Buffy is the Vampire Slayer and that Riley is a demon-hunting soldier with the Initiative. Layer this with the fact that the formidable Doug Jones, the man behind the faun in "Pan's Labyrinth," plays the Lead Gentleman, and it's not hard to see why it's rated an astounding 9.7 on IMDb.

Worst: Go Fish (Season 2, Episode 20)

"Go Fish" carries a clear anti-steroid theme that, like all the worst "Buffy" episodes, lacks any real substance (a frustrating issue for a feminist show that, when at its absolute best, often deals with heavy topics like death, grief, and mental health with sensitivity and depth). The Scooby Gang believes that members of Sunnydale High's swim team, the Razorbacks, are the victims of grotesque, gilled, humanoid sea-monsters. Not a huge loss considering one of those teammates tries to assault Buffy in the car at the very beginning of the episode. Still, something weird and terrifying is going on, and they believe that those gilled creatures are killing students, so the Scooby Gang has to investigate. All is not as it initially seems. After Buffy sees soulless vampire Angelus spitting out the blood of one of the Razorbacks, repelled by the taste, Xander joins the swim team in an effort to find out more. Another one rated at a 6.6 on IMDb, "Go Fish" features Xander in a Speedo and an evil swim coach who should have never been allowed on school grounds. But that's Sunnydale. Here, the message eventually just boils down to "don't take steroids."

Best: The Gift (Season 5, Episode 22)

In a sense, "The Gift," the Season 5 finale which also happens to be the series' 100th episode, also serves as a series finale. It's the last episode the WB produced before the series moved over to a new home at UPN. As far as finales go, it's pretty exceptional (via Uproxx): Rated a 9.5 on IMDb and considered one of the very best episodes by Vox, "The Gift" even has one of Buffy's most famous quotes. Before she sacrifices herself for her sister and the rest of the world one last time (at least they all think this will be the last time), Buffy tells Dawn, "The hardest thing in this world is to live in it." From Buffy's revelation that accepting death is her gift to the Slayer's budding intimacy with soulless vampire Spike to the Scooby Gang's united front in the face of a monstrous god hellbent on destroying their world in her efforts to get home, the general consensus seems to be that this episode offers the perfect balance of depth, tragedy, and closure.

Worst: Empty Places (Season 7, Episode 19)

We don't know many people who'd declare the seventh season of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" their favorite. Just glance at the Buffy Boards or read Reddit posts by users like u/jdpm1991. In this bland season filled with bland potential slayers prepping for the biggest apocalypse yet, a coup brews. The potentials, along with the Scoobies, are getting frustrated with Buffy's militaristic approach to their training. And while Buffy's determined to get them all into shape to face the First Evil and a terrifying army of Ubervamps, the others are ticked off that she's acting less like a friend (or a sister), and that she doesn't ever seem to give them a moment to unwind. Cue a Faith-led outing to the Bronze that results in our OG Slayer splitting ways with all the potentials — and the Scoobies. While it enjoys a favorable 7.6 IMDb rating, Vox rates it incredibly low on their own list. Screen Rant and Redditors like u/there_all_is_aching, seem to agree with Vox on this one. As we see it, the core problem in "Empty Places," the one that puts it squarely on other people's lists as one of the worst episodes, is that it's unbelievably hard to accept that — even in the Buffyverse — the Vampire Slayer who died not once, but twice, for her friends and for the rest of the world would really be thrown out of her own home just because the others don't trust her to lead anymore.

Best: The Body (Season 5, Episode 16)

Arguably the most upsetting "Buffy" episode in its seven-year saga, "The Body" is the episode creator Joss Whedon is most proud of. Considered the absolute best of "Buffy" by The Atlantic, Metro.co.uk, Redditors like u/the_dead_icarus, and countless others, "The Body" sits at the number one spot on IMDb's list with a rating of 9.7 and focuses on the immediate aftermath of Joyce Summers' death. After Joyce suffers a fatal aneurysm, Buffy finds her mom cold and unnaturally still on the living room couch. Buffy calls for an ambulance and attempts to resuscitate the matriarch, as per the dispatcher's instructions, but it's too late. The news is a terrible shock to everyone, and it ripples through each character in a heartbreaking way. Even Spike's upset. Anya (Emma Caulfield)'s monologue regarding her blunt and confused sadness over Joyce's death is often noted as particularly visceral, but Caulfield admits that all she could think about was how much she needed to use the bathroom while filming it. That real anxiety, fueled with her scripted lines, makes the scene even more palpable. There is no musical score here, but the moments of pained silence are deafening.

Worst: Beer Bad (Season 4, Episode 5)

"Beer Bad" follows Buffy after her first traumatizing experience with a college creep. Parker (Adam Kaufman), the man she thought she'd really bonded with, ditches her for other prospects as soon as they have sex. Devastated to learn that she fell for a "love 'em and leave 'em" type of guy, Buffy wallows, and eventually turns to booze to drown her sorrows. Meanwhile, Xander tries his hand at bartending. He's told to serve the underage college students who come in, and he soon learns that the beer he's giving those students is turning them into cavemen. Buffy, despite her Slayer status, is not immune. Like other networks in the late '90s, the WB had a Congress-influenced relationship with the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), which basically means they received financial incentives for airing content with anti-drug themes. The WB submitted the script of this infamous "Buffy" episode to the ONDCP for consideration, but the folks there found the story ludicrous and nonsensical. As a result, "Beer Bad," rated dead last on IMDb, at a measly 5.9, got none of that anti-drug money and — with few exceptions — no love from fans.