Covering from “Hell’s Bells” to “Entropy,” in which I will attempt to crown a champion.
It’s incredibly convenient for me that these three episodes all come right in a row, because I’m not sure which is the worst episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it’s one of these three.
“Hell’s Bells” destroys one of the show’s most significant characters.
“Normal Again” nearly destroys the show with its clumsiness.
“Entropy” is just pointless.
If you’ve been waiting to see if I melt into a puddle of hate and profanity, this might just be your post.
So let’s get into it. “Hell’s Bells” is the wedding episode that hits all the wedding episode clichés, but thinks it will be funny and fresh if it just throws in demons. This threatens to twee up the demon world as much as “Smashed” did for magic. Back in “Something Blue” it was funny when D’Hoffryn, imposing, dark, and powerful demon, simply handed Willow a talisman and asked she “give him a chant” if she changed her mind, like some sort of recruiter or Hollywood agent, because it played with and undercut our expectations, but he still seemed dangerous. Having him pop in for the wedding is just lame and lazy, as we’re apparently supposed to laugh that the demons are all here for a wedding, I mean, the very idea, right? Demons at a wedding, ha ha, crazy! And what if, maybe, Xander’s dad is super racist about the demons, except everyone’s been told they’re circus people, so I guess he’s racist toward carnies?
I say the above to illustrate that the episode was really fucking irritating well before the things that make this episode so widely reviled (it’s another accepted potential worst episode candidate), but let’s get to the bullshit, shall we? An old man claiming to be future Xander shows Xander a vision of a life with Anya full of misery and possibly murder, so he runs away, but it turns out the old man is a victim of Anya’s from her vengeance demon days looking to get some vengeance for himself (honestly, a pretty good idea for an episode), but then Xander returns, but he calls off the wedding anyway, even knowing the vision was a trick because he’s been worrying about repeating his parents’ mistakes for a while now (which, again, does not align with what we’ve seen), so he leaves Anya at the altar.
Fuck. You. Show.
This utterly torpedoes Xander’s character, and I’m not sure he ever recovers from this. It makes him seem gutless, cowardly, stupid, senseless, and cruel, and it’s also an unmotivated twist that comes out of nowhere, but seems smugly pleased with how it played with your expectations. See, bet you thought when Xander came back through the door because he’d seen through his fears, but oh no, gotcha, he came back to crush his beloved’s heart even harder, apparently. But we did all think that’s why he came back, because up until now the story of Xander and Anya was how they had been able to get through their fears and issues because they did love each other and wanted to be together. This is just more miserabilism in a season wallowing in it, and is annoyingly defeatist, too—people were skeptical of their relationship since it started, and it seems those skeptics were right all along, but only because the show declares them right with issues it claims have been building for a while even though they are only introduced in this episode. Along with Tara, Xander and Anya had been enjoyably reliable through the season’s rougher patches, characters who seemed to be actually growing up in a season allegedly about growing up. But no more. And you know, if you’re dead set on breaking up Xander and Anya, do so, but not with this spurned at the altar hack bullshit. Do it in such a way that doesn’t make one of your main characters look like an enormous piece of shit.
“Normal Again” is a genre staple—the genre show visiting “the real world.” In this one, Buffy keeps hallucinating that she’s in an asylum and every aspect of her slayer life is actually the hallucination. Apparently Whedon himself has proclaimed it the ultimate postmodern deconstruction of writing, as it questions some of the show’s elements. And now that he mentions it, it is kinda weird that a teen girl fights a nightly war against evil and darkness, because that usually doesn’t happen. I’m glad the show took the time to point that out. Buffy’s doctor even expresses incredulity that Buffy would have a little sister monks made for her from mystical energy. Really?
Know how I know the show isn’t real? Because it’s on my fucking TV and has a bunch of actors in it, and each episode has the credit “Written by.” Yeah, watching it takes requires some suspension of disbelief, and given how much you’ve been abusing that suspension lately, it’s probably best not to call attention to it.
The episode is allegedly open-ended deliberately, except it really isn’t open-ended, the last thing we see is Buffy in the asylum after she’s supposed to have cured herself of the hallucinations, and there’s no reason we should see unless the asylum is reality. While you may think such a statement aligns me with the “Asylum Buffy” school of thought which apparently exists, I reject Asylum Buffy’s Reality for a much more simple reason: it’s fucking stupid. “It’s aaaaaall a dreeeeeeam!” isn’t clever, or insightful, or thought-provoking, it’s wack ass bullshit, I’ve already begun to suspect I’m wasting my fucking time with this show, best not to confirm it by telling me none of the events I’m seeing aren’t actually happening. Anyway, the notion that everything in the show is a fevered hallucination is said to gloss over inconsistencies and weirdness, to which I say No. Fuck no. Fuck you, fuck no. I deny you that cover for the terrible turn in characterization and plotting the show has taken. I deprive you of it. In the next episode, Buffy’s friends don’t care that she tried to kill them all not because all these events are just in her mind, no, they don’t care, because allz y’allz didn’t feel like fucking writing them to care. That shit is on you, son. On you.
“Entropy” is mostly about Spike and Anya fucking because they’re both sad and lonely, and through stupid contrivance Buffy and Willow and Xander and briefly Dawn all see it through a spy camera. It’s powerfully pointless, and mostly exists to crush whatever was left of any love we might have had for Xander into bloody dust as he rushes off in an alpha male rage, attacks Spike, and shouts at Anya, while Buffy stands around and is shocked and hurt that Spike would have sex with someone else after she broke off their relationship, and while Anya asks “Where do you get off?” and I ask “Where do either of them get off?” the show doesn’t seem aware of what a bad soap opera all of this is. Oh and Spike lets slip that Buffy’s been sexing him. Whatever.
I’m not going to lie, coming into this, I was expecting to crown “Hell’s Bells” the worst episode of Buffy, but that’s when I thought the ending of “Normal Again” was a clumsy attempt to do “but is the horror really over!?” But learning that we’re encouraged to ignore all of the massive, massive failings and slovenliness of this season due to its possible revelations? It filled me with a rage. The ultimate postmodern deconstruction? Fuck you. Fuck you, do a better job writing the show, don’t blame shit on some idiotic shit about schizophrenic fantasy worlds.