Worst Episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Ever
Finding humble beginnings in a cheesy-fun but ultimately forgettable movie, Buffy the Vampire Slayer has become one of the biggest entertainment franchises around. This can largely be attributed to the vision of Joss Whedon. After working as the screenwriter on the original film, Whedon decided to take his creation to the small screen and the burgeoning network the WB. Serving as a pseudo-sequel to the film, Buffy was recast as Sarah Michelle Gellar in a breakthrough role and surrounded her with a rich supporting cast. Quirky witch-in-training Willow, wise mentor Giles, affable Xander, stuck-up Cordelia, and ensouled vampire Angel made up her Scooby gang which saw their ranks grow and change throughout the show’s run. In season five, those behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer must have realized that after high school and college, the saga was nearing it’s end and a grand finale was in order. Our hero spent all season defending her sister “Dawn” from the incredibly powerful Glory. In the end the vampire slayer valiantly gave her life in order to save the world. However, this powerful moment of television was undercut the following season when Buffy moved to a new network and naturally the Slayer was resurrected to face evil once more. Now the show which had wrapped thing up nicely with a fitting end had to find a way to keep things going even longer.
Throughout this sixth season one the themes dealt with was Buffy adjusting to her new normal in life. She was dealing with depression after being ripped from the utter joy and serenity of heaven and put back on earth, while also having to raise her sister and find a job. The show which had built a devoted cult following based on using demons and monsters as stand-ins for the problems of reality, but now it’s protagonist had to outright with the problems of reality. Granted the supernatural menaces of the show were still there, but seeing Buffy tackle mundane tasks like; home-repairs, finding a job, and dealing with mental health issues were less than exciting. No episode showcased this more than “Flooded” the fourth episode of the season, and arguably the worst Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode ever.
Still adjusting to the world of the living, Buffy must face the challenge of Mr. Drippy, a leaky pipe in her basement in desperate need of repair. After her own attempts to fix it failed, she turns to professionals which naturally hits the wallet hard. With few options for cash, and unwilling to take Anya’s suggestion to charge for her slaying, Buffy has to put on her adult pants (or in this case adult skirt which prohibits her from kicking) and apply for a bank loan. Her meeting with a loan officer is cut short by a Sunnydale special of a demon attacking the bank. Later we learn the demon is working for the Big Bads for the season, a trio of geek stereotypes: Warren, Jonathan, and Andrew. As she struggles with this new normal in her life, Buffy does get a reprieve as Giles returns to Sunnydale to provide a solid mentor figure for her to lean on. All the characters interact with each other until the demon attacks the Slayer at her own home ultimately battling out in the flooded basement.
Like in seasons past the demon in this episode was simply a pawn to the big bad of the overarching storyline. But unlike seasons past, instead of said big bad being; an ancient vampire or powerful warlock or anything else of that ilk; rather it is three nerdy losers with delusions of grandeur. To say this is a huge drop off in villain quality would be an understatement. After tangling with the likes of the Master, Angelus, and the Mayor; battling it out with three dorks should have been a cakewalk, but they lasted all season long. When the woman we have seen as a hero for the past five seasons can not dispatch with these crumb bums it short order we begin to think less of her. They are not even well-rounded and fascinating Big Bads like enemies past, they are basic stereotypical live-in-mom’s-basement nerds. Their characterization is so shallow one would think they came over from the Big Bang Theory. When explaining this decision to go with these villains, creator Joss Whedon discussed how the theme of season six is Buffy growing into adulthood, so naturally her antagonist would have to be someone who refuses to grow up. While that makes sense, fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer have become used to seeing topical life issues represented metaphorically by the monsters the Slayer fights. It would have been fascinating to see a Whedon take on some supernatural evil which represents the refusal to mature into adulthood.
With it still being early in the season “Flooded” is the episode which really showcases for viewers the theme of adult problems giving you the proverbial punch in the head. In this case the very relatable adult problem of needing to get money to pay for a necessary emergency. Not particularly exciting, but fills the criteria needed. Massively undercutting this struggle is the fact that we see that Willow and Tara have been living in Buffy’s old house the entire time that she was in the choir invisible. One would assume that during this time they had been paying bills and taking care of Dawn. Now they simply live in the house rent free. Worse than that it is implied, that they had been burning through their friend’s money the entire time. Now that Buffy is back in the land of the living they get to drop this fact in her lap right after she discovers the amount of plumbing work needed. With friends like these who needs sharp-fanged undead enemies.
Of course with a show like Buffy the Vampire Slayer the entirety of the episode is not dreadful. As per usual the dialogue is on-point, especially the interaction with the loan officer at the bank. And the ever-evolving relationship between Xander in Anya is great as they debate whether to reveal their engaged status to the other Scoobies. “Flooded” even sees the return of Giles, and dammit Giles makes everything better (especially when he sings). This also proves to be a double-edged sword as the pacing of this episode is a snail pace due to it’s talkiness. The bulk of interactions between characters in this episode tend to be heavy and serious which for an episode with a relatively simple story this approach pads the time out. But it also makes gloomier atmosphere of the season as a whole more oppressive and weigh down even harder on the viewer.