“Beer” bad, “Wild Things” worse

In which I come to the defense of “Doublemeat Palace.”

Because I’m rewatching Buffy, I’m also tweeting about Buffy, which is — let’s face it — a thing I would be doing with or without the rewatch. Still, revisiting the series (along with Angel) has been an excellent opportunity for content. (And to distract myself from the pandemic.) (And to gently encourage my boyfriend to have the same Whedonverse opinions I do.) (I digress.) Recently my tweet about “Beer Bad” being widely regarded as the worst episode of Buffy got some attention, because “Beer Bad” has its defenders, and they will pop up if you dare speak ill of it. Having just watched “Beer Bad” again recently, I can confirm that it remains not good, but I will concede, as several people suggested in my replies, that “Where the Wild Things Are” is far worse.

Anyway, it got me thinking about the other bad episodes, with the caveat that I’d still rather watch the worst episode of Buffy over pretty much anything else on TV, a testament to my enduring love of the series, and my strong desire to disassociate right now. We’re only through Season 4 on the rewatch, but I feel confident enough in my Buffy opinions (and my memory) to do this now, so here are my picks are the worst episodes of every season.

Season 1

Worst: “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date.” People rarely cite this as one of the show’s worst episodes because they don’t remember it exists, which is precisely the problem. Despite the presence of one of the all-time great lines — “If the apocalypse comes, beep me” — it might just be the most forgettable episode of the series. Well, at least until Season 7. Also, it introduces the whole Anointed One thing, which was a totally useless storyline featuring a tragically bad child actor.

Runner-up: “I, Robot… You, Jane.” Reasonably entertaining as a time capsule. Still bad.

Unfairly maligned: “The Puppet Show.” Sid is great, haters. Also has Cordelia performing “The Greatest Love of All.” Enough said.

Season 2

Worst: “Inca Mummy Girl.” Yes, we get it, Xander has hilariously bad taste in women. But “Inca Mummy Girl” (what is that title!) doesn’t cover any ground we hadn’t already covered in the also bad “Teacher’s Pet.” The cultural appropriation of that school dance hasn’t aged well, but then, the whole thing feels… insensitive, at best.

Runner-up: “Bad Eggs.” What did we do to deserve Lyle and Tector Gorch?

Unfairly maligned: “Go Fish.” Xander in a Speedo before we all hated Xander. Could do without the implication that the sea creatures sexually assault their coach, though.

Season 3

Worst: “Beauty and the Beasts.” There’s something really icky about the whole allegory here, and the domestic violence metaphor is especially uncomfortable when Pete gets grouped together with Angel and Oz. (We’re better off not thinking about the fact that Buffy and Willow’s romantic partners are occasionally violent, unless the issue is being handled with real depth.) Plus, it’s boring. A real dud in the show’s most consistent season overall.

Runner-up: “Dead Man’s Party.” Not really a bad episode, even, but everyone is kind of dick, and it’s annoying.

Unfairly maligned: “Anne.” Though certainly not a top-tier Joss episode, it works well enough as a season opener. Maybe I just have a soft spot for Chanterelle/Lily/Anne.

Season 4

Worst: “Where the Wild Things Are.” Just like, tremendously uncomfortable to watch. I think even if you like Buffy and Riley as a couple — which, how come? — you can be grossed out by the relentless fucking. It’s amazing that Giles singing “Behind Blue Eyes” can’t redeem this mess, but it’s seriously such an unpleasant episode of television, and after my recent rewatch, I felt like I needed a shame shower when it was over.

Runner-up: “Beer Bad.” Episode bad, Buffy punching Parker pretty.

Unfairly maligned: “Living Conditions.” Actually kind of fun? Kathy is allegedly annoying because she listens to Cher a lot and has a Céline Dion poster, which in retrospect is low-key homophobic. She’s a gay icon, and we have to stan.

Season 5

Worst: “Listening to Fear.” I always confuse this one with “Shadow” — they are both part of a really depressing arc that I don’t mind as a whole, despite the tragic ending, but man are these episodes rough. To that end, I’m not sure if “Listening to Fear” is any worse than “Shadow” (and that horribly fake snake demon), but Joyce’s tumor-induced ramblings are certainly more uncomfortable to watch.

Runner-up: “Into the Woods.” Fuck Riley and fuck Xander and fuck the men on this show, just in general. (“Shadow” could also go here, but I feel like we’ve covered that.)

Unfairly maligned: “Buffy vs. Dracula.” Dracula is great, the end. Plus, it ends on one of the most iconic “what the fuck” moments in TV history.

Season 6

Worst: “Wrecked.” Remember the good old days when magic was a metaphor for lesbian sex, and then the show had to go and make it a metaphor for drugs for some reason? This is really the low point in the series’ bleakest season. (For what it’s worth, I think Season 6 is somewhat better than Season 7, but they’re the weakest overall.) There were so many ways to show Willow’s spiral that didn’t involve that bullshit with Rack.

Runner-up: “As You Were.” Because Riley. But let’s be honest, there are a number of episodes I could list here, and you’d nod sagely at all of them.

Unfairly maligned: “Doublemeat Palace.” You heard me. More clever and self-aware than it’s given credit for, along with a delightfully phallic demon and some horribly depressing alley sex. What’s not to love!

Season 7

Worst: “First Date.” Special guest star Ashanti! I think one of the things Buffy did so well in the early seasons was show the conflict between Buffy’s higher calling and her desire for a normal life. Like, yes, apocalypses happen, but you still have to let loose sometimes. “First Date,” on the other hand, just feels forced and woefully out of place. Sometimes it’s just not the right time to embark on a new relationship, is the thing!

Runner-up: ...Any number of episodes in the middle. You expect me to distinguish between “Never Leave Me,” “Bring on the Night,” and “Showtime”? I’m sure there’s a worst, I just couldn’t tell you what it is.

Unfairly maligned: The thing about Season 7 is that the good episodes stand out, and people talk about them. And the bad episodes — well, we pretty much agree. But those good episodes are honestly really good!

Photo via 20th Television.