#111 – Gingerbread – season 3, episode 11
It’s a testament to how strong and consistent season 3 is that it only has two entries in the bottom quarter of the rankings. Gingerbread has one amazing moment, with Buffy impaling a demon via a large wooden stake attached to her back. She has to bend over to pierce the baddie through the neck, meaning at first she doesn’t know if she did the deed or not. The way Sarah Michelle Geller says “did I get it?” is perfect, followed by Xander and Oz busting through the ceiling in their attempt to save the day. As with everything else in season three, the tone is perfect, but the plot here is a bit too silly to work.
#110 – Listening To Fear – season 5, episode 9
Fair or not, my biggest problem with the episode is that the monster in question is not a monster or a traditional demon or some other hellspawn but is, in fact, an alien from outer space. It is, unless I’m forgetting something, the only such time a villain in the show has been interstellar. I know it’s called a demon in the show, and is even described as being “summoned” but it came from the stars! What a weird way to do that. There are some good moments here, which is expected since season 5 is abundant with great little character moments. It’s the stitching that binds it all that’s lacking.
#109 – First Date – season 7, episode 14
As said already, this episode falls in that middle stretch of episodes in season 7 where things grind to a halt. There are plot developments stretched out over the whole episode here that, in earlier years, would have been handled in a scene or two. Buffy and Principal Wood go out on a date and Buffy realizes Wood has some skills fighting vamps. Meanwhile, Xander goes out on a date with early-2000s singing sensation Ashanti. She ends up trying to sacrifice him in a pagan ritual because of course she does; Xander’s luck with women is hilariously terrible. There’s too much padding and filler in these episodes. Watching them in a row actually helps; seeing them piecemeal is a slog.
#108 – All The Way – season 6, episode 6
Buffy’s Halloween episodes in seasons 2 and 4 were standouts. Season 6 focuses on Dawn and features a plot that feels like a throwback to the simpler days of season 1 and the first half of season 2 (going out on a date and wanting that first kiss from someone who turns out to be a vampire). Considering how far the show had grown to this point, I don’t know if a throwback feel is what was needed here. There are things to praise, particularly in how it continues to plant seeds that will be watered as the season progresses and the worst traits of the Scoobies become their undoing. That’s a staple of every other episode in the first half of season 6 however, and it’s handled better in those outings than here.
#107 – Beauty And The Beasts – season 3, episode 4
The story here is a good one: People are being killed, it’s around the full moon, so naturally, Oz is a suspect. The audience, however, is led to suspect it is the recently-returned Angel, who is acting far less human than he was in season 2. The Angel story ends up being a clever red herring, though the actual villain is a bit underwhelming. Oz was always a great character, but the episodes which put him in the center of the action usually underwhelmed. He worked better as the laid-back guy making wise and funny observations.
#106 – Ted – season 2, episode 11
Ted is another polarizing episode in the Buffy fandom. For me, I like a lot all the pieces but not the whole of it. John Ritter is great. The basic idea is good too. The mid-episode turn is really well-done, but the ultimate payoff as to who (what) Ted is, comes off to me as too out of left field. As with the rest of season 2’s weaker entries, it feels like an idea rejected in season 1, though the production and overall quality is a step up from the year before. Ultimately, it’s a lot of good set-up with an ending that falls flat.
#105 – Checkpoint – season 5, episode 12
This episode serves two purposes: It gives us some nice conflict between Buffy and the Watchers, a dynamic missing since the days of Faith and Wesley in season 3. It also builds to the final line(s) of the episode, where Buffy is finally told what it is she’s dealing with in Glory: “She’s not a demon…she’s a god.” To that Buffy responds, in her perfectly Buffy way: “Oh.” The highlight of the episode is the “power” speech Buffy gives, which gets a big cheer from the rest of the Scoobies. It’s a great scene, but it’s the only really great scene in the episode. The rest is unremarkable.
#104 – Lessons – season 7, episode 1
Buffy’s first episodes of each season are never high-water marks for the year: Usually they’re too busy establishing themes that will be explored for the remainder of the season. Season 7 will end with a whopper of a finale, but it begins almost like the pilot of a spinoff show. Buffy returns to Sunnydale High and takes up a teaching position, we meet some new kids that look like potential series leads, and a threat is introduced (cryptically) to establish the stakes. If you told me Netflix was reviving the show, that’s the kind of episode I can see kicking it off. It landed weird and while it’s not bad, it’s too focused on planting seeds to be a compelling episode on its own.
#103 – Wild At Heart – season 4, episode 6
Oz had his character assassinated by Joss Whedon as punishment for his desire to leave the show. That’s the only explanation I can give to the idea that Oz would ever cheat on Willow, especially when there were a dozen other ways to go about writing him off the show. They did Oz dirty and while a lot of the episode is good and well-done, the ending—and the way they got there—brings down the whole of it.
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There it is, the first chunk of episodes ranked and reviewed.