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Best Xander Centric Episode

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  • Best Xander Centric Episode

    We've been pitting some episodes against each other recently but not normally so many. You can still only choose one though.

    Having been talking about Xander recently in the thread about changing audience responses to him, it made me wonder which of the most Xander centric episodes people would choose as the best. So which is your favourite and why...

    I'm torn. The seriousness of Hell's Bells and the realisation of all those issues caused by his upbringing draws me. But I love The Zeppo for how it challenges his self doubts and is just fun. And The Replacement too, for a different exploration of the same kind of theme but in terms of breaking away from home, as opposed to having some confidence in school. Although it has its own pros, BBB is the weakest here for me. Oooo, I just don't know.

    *The Pack was added as a late addition after a couple of comments about its absence. If anyone who voted before would have voted for it instead, please let us know in the comments and I'll note it here. So far, no adjustments need be taken into account.

    13
    Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered
    0%
    0
    The Zeppo
    38.46%
    5
    The Replacement
    15.38%
    2
    Hell's Bells
    46.15%
    6
    The Pack
    0%
    0

  • #2
    Zeppo for me. One of my faves of the show period. It developed Xander they didn't know where to go after it. The plot of the Replacement is basically the same . BBB is creepy and doesn't hold up well and Hells Bells is just

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    • #3
      I do agree that there is a duplication in Replacement, but I think an actual split of his weaknesses makes him view his capabilities in a different way. It works well for him making a break out of the family home, gaining independence, whereas Zeppo was more about just not doubting himself I think. I really love both. BBB I think is the most lighthearted of the four and so it has less meaning and that is what I like the most in character focused episodes. Hell's Bells I think is a fantastic episode for exploring Xander's father issues and the influence and impact of his childhood (and sits so well against Sleep Tight). The hidden fears and self doubts that can corrupt. I really enjoy it.

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      • #4
        Oh no, I am really torn. I really enjoy Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered and The Replacement. I find The Zeppo overrated and Hell's Bells is just too sad, though both are good episodes.

        I voted for The Replacement, mainly because, although I love the episode I'm not a fan of Xander getting the girl at the end of BB&B, or being thanked for not assaulting Buffy when she was under a spell. The Replacement is fun, shows who Xander can become, and in my opinion. does become in Season 7 and the comics.

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        • #5
          I voted for Hell's Bells, it's a such a good episode, kind of depressing but great. The Zeppo is right behind.

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          • #6
            As someone who leans towards drama, I voted for Hell’s Bells - one of NB’s best performances. I also thought of another Xander-centric episode that is interesting - the Pack - that isn’t on the list.

            Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered is the most comical - the Zeppo is the most original - The Replacement is the most poignant.

            If you look at all the Xander-centric episodes in a row, it’s amazing how wonderfully well they show the progression of character and the increasingly complex choices Xander faces. There’s a huge chasm between The Pack and Hell’s Bells - and yet, it feels incredibly coherent - the story of a working class kid who tries as hard as he can to escape his roots - and yet, it comes back to destroy him anyway.

            Some of my other favorite moments are Xander’s dream in Restless, his speech in Potential and the end of Grave. I wish he’d had an episode to himself in Season 7.

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            • #7
              American Aurora I hadn't thought of including The Pack as he's possessed for most of it and isn't consciously driving the direction and events. Which isn't to say that his character isn't playing a part in what unfolded and it doesn't give insight of course. It is one of my favourite episodes of season 1, top three for me in that season most of the time I choose my faves for it. But it is another that he has focused specifically on himself though, so perhaps I should have included that one too.

              And yes, there are definitely others that give great moments for Xander as well, as you say. Halloween also has some great Xander elements. I definitely wasn't suggesting the four offered were the only significant Xander episodes.

              I adore The Zeppo and really do think The Replacement works well as a catalyst for Xander to start feeling confidence in his ability to have a successful independent life and career. But the depth of the issues that have plagued him and remained still under the surface, that we've heard snippets about since the very start, bubble over and out in Hell's Bells. As the elements of their stories that have been there through the series and have been built on for the characters is one of my absolute favourite elements of the show, I had to vote for Hell's Bells in the end too.

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              • #8
                For me it's about Hell's Bells and The Replacement.

                I voted for Hell's Bells, a very underrated episode. It's the culmination of Xander's issues, caused by his family and upbringing, that had been set up for seasons. Both Xander and Anya have the demons of their past come to ruin their happiness. I find it heartbreaking but convincing, I never understood why so many people insisted that it was too much or supposedly forced. These things had been hinted and set up for a long time, since Xander's insecurities in general to his insecurities about his marriage to Anya. And I don't hate Xander as some do, I sympathized with him.

                But The Replaccement is also great, It's very funny but is also a really good exploration of Xander's character.

                The Zeppo has its many good sides - but I can't get past the fact that it misrepresents Xander's position in the group.

                BBB would be last. It is also funny and with many good moments, but Cordelia being awed by the idea of Xander doing a love spell on her is all sorts of wrong.

                I do think The Pack should have been on the list. Sure he is possessed, but we are still seeing Xander's desires, amplified and made more beastly.
                You keep waiting for the dust to settle and then you realize it; the dust is your life going on. If happy comes along - that weird unbearable delight that's actual happy - I think you have to grab it while you can. You take what you can get, 'cause it's here, and then...gone.

                Comment


                • Skippcomet
                  Skippcomet commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I find that those complaining about "Hell's Bells" being too much or forced are usually furious that it doesn't end the way they'd already made up their minds how they wanted it to end.

              • #9
                I don't mind The Pack not being on the list, because I wouldn't have voted for that one above The Replacement or Hell's Bells. It's a good episode, and reveals there is more about Xander then we've seen, but I find a lot of season 1 involves Xander, we get a lot of him and his story as opposed to Willow or Giles.

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                • #10
                  Sorry for not having included The Pack one and all. I have added it so that others can choose to vote for it. If anyone who has already voted would have picked the The Pack, please let us know in the comments and I'll note it above the poll.

                  I do think The Pack is revealing about Xander as a character with his perspectives playing a part in his behaviour. It is an episode I love, as I said. The direction around the group as The Pack move and how they behave (like in the dodgeball scene), I just adore. But I do think Hell's Bells as a culmination of all we've seen about Xander's background is simply excellent and I would still have voted for that personally.

                  TimeTravellingBunny I do understand seeing Xander's position in the group as a frustration of The Zeppo. I think acceptance of that element possibly comes easier with how much you view the episode as looking to reflect Xander's own feelings rather than presenting a completely realistic and fair position about his place in the group. The literal shielding of him is somewhat awkward still though.

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                  • #11
                    Originally posted by Stoney View Post
                    Sorry for not having included The Pack one and all. I have added it so that others can choose to vote for it. If anyone who has already voted would have picked the The Pack, please let us know in the comments and I'll note it above the poll.

                    I do think The Pack is revealing about Xander as a character with his perspectives playing a part in his behaviour. It is an episode I love, as I said. The direction around the group as The Pack move and how they behave (like in the dodgeball scene), I just adore. But I do think Hell's Bells as a culmination of all we've seen about Xander's background is simply excellent and I would still have voted for that personally.

                    TimeTravellingBunny I do understand seeing Xander's position in the group as a frustration of The Zeppo. I think acceptance of that element possibly comes easier with how much you view the episode as looking to reflect Xander's own feelings rather than presenting a completely realistic and fair position about his place in the group. The literal shielding of him is somewhat awkward still though.
                    Oh, I would still have voted for Hell's Bells.
                    My order would be Hell's Bells > The Replacement > The Pack > The Zeppo > BBB.

                    The Zeppo would certainly work much better if we imagine it's all skewed by Xander's POV, but it is still to weird and the others babying Xander to that extent and excluding him from their activities comes out of nowhere. It's like he is suddenly Jonathan rather than Xander.
                    You keep waiting for the dust to settle and then you realize it; the dust is your life going on. If happy comes along - that weird unbearable delight that's actual happy - I think you have to grab it while you can. You take what you can get, 'cause it's here, and then...gone.

                    Comment


                    • Priceless
                      Priceless commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Completely agree about Xander's pov in The Zeppo.

                  • #12
                    Originally posted by TimeTravellingBunny View Post
                    Oh, I would still have voted for Hell's Bells.
                    My order would be Hell's Bells > The Replacement > The Pack > The Zeppo > BBB.
                    The Pack is an episode I love, so it would possibly beat The Zeppo and The Replacement for me, but not Hell's Bells either. I think the order I put The Replacement, The Zeppo and The Pack after Hell's Bells if I consider them as episodes generally would probably change from day to day. But The Pack could well be second often. However, if I was thinking about it entirely as what we learn about Xander, The Pack would go after The Replacement and The Zeppo. But before BBB.

                    I do understand your issues with the babying of Xander in The Zeppo, it is out of sync with what we see generally. But that's why I have to lean heavily into it being skewed by Xander's perspective. Perhaps even him hearing what he expects rather than what people are actually saying to him (like his, "That's fine. I'm less than a man." response to Buffy in The Harvest which is such an over the top reaction to what she actually says to him). I acknowledge that is perhaps my want to make it work at play a little though.

                    Comment


                    • #13
                      I find Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered to be the most entertaining episode of the bunch. I think it escalates the craziness so well and I love the way the Angelus subplot converges with the love spell storyline so absurdly. The Xander/Dru/Angelus scene is honestly one of my favourite moments in the show. However, it feels more like a Xander/Cordy episode than a 'Xander' episode to me.

                      So I would pick The Zeppo. The way it turns the show's formula on it's head is really brilliantly done and so clever. I find myself always so intrigued by the apocalyptic B-plot and wishing we could see more whilst simultaneously loving how the narrative chooses to follow Xander instead. I also love the callback to Prophecy Girl with the reappearance of the Hellmouth monster and the cut scenes to the final battle are so well done.

                      I don't dislike The Replacement but it's one of the weaker episodes of S5. It's also more or less a rehash of the exact same issues Xander faced in The Zeppo and it's plot is a rehash of Dopplegangland. So whilst it's a perfectly fine episode with some great moments it's not as strong for me as The Zeppo.

                      I'm not a fan of Hells Bells at all. It's one of my least favourite episodes of S6 and probably the series overall. The world-building doesn't make any sense, the way Anya's victim is treated in the story leaves a very sour taste in my mouth, and leaving Anya at the altar feels very cliched to me. I dread getting to this episode in rewatches.

                      If The Pack had been included I would rank it probably just above or on par with The Replacement and above Hell Bells.

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                      • Stoney
                        Stoney commented
                        Editing a comment
                        I have added The Pack, but I'm gathering you wouldn't have swapped it for The Zeppo.

                    • #14
                      I can see the similarities between The Zeppo and The Replacement, but I think The Replacement really sets up well for Xander's move out of his parents' basement and having a sense of uncertainty in setting out and fully taking on the costs of living like that. Especially viewed alongside starting up a career. It works well for insecurity issues to be flaring again for him. So the context for me differentiates it quite a lot and it also works really well in the season and for a contrast to the challenges Buffy and Willow are facing I think.

                      I find the treatment of Anya's victim raises pretty interesting questions when there is a cycle of violence and a victim becomes a perpetrator and the original perpetrator the victim. The way Burns is dealt with is unsympathetic but that cycle is raised within the narrative I think and so prompts us to question the fairness of it. It can certainly be argued that his behaviour is the kind that Buffy stops without qualms normally too. Her later reservations with Anya come from the personal connections and that has always been acknowledged to make matters more difficult. The episode and self destruction of his wedding as a consequence of Xander's childhood and how it can continue to impact him even when he has seemingly escaped his parents I find really powerful.

                      I can certainly agree that leaving someone at the altar is clichéd. But getting married can be really intense and so a lot of people have fears and doubts that do make them pull out. It could be argued that Xander should have overcome his doubts in the end perhaps, but again it is just something he handled badly. I definitely don't think he should have left and handling it badly means when he returns the relationship isn't repairable (also in part because of the way Anya processes it too of course). In terms of a relatable scenario, everyone's demons coming to tear them down at a wedding is a good scenario for the show to have used I think.

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                      • #15
                        This is a tough choice. I genuinely like everything about all these episodes, even if I'm grading The Pack on a bit of season 1 curve.

                        Looks like no one went for Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered. One of my favourite bits of the episode is Xander's twisted teenage boy logic. He doesn't want a love spell to get Cordelia. He wants a do-over in the break-up department. There's something so pathetically teenage about that thinking which spares him from the messier implications of the spell. Because whether the spell turned out the way he wanted or not, he's staring at a fork in the road that could lead to Superstar and the Trio.

                        I went for Hell's Bells. We get to see clearly why Xander is the way he is. As judgmental as Xander often is, the harshest judgment is reserved for himself. He knows he has the potential to be his dad, and yet it's the fear of that which keeps him from moving past it.

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                        • #16
                          Originally posted by Stoney View Post
                          I can see the similarities between The Zeppo and The Replacement, but I think The Replacement really sets up well for Xander's move out of his parents' basement and having a sense of uncertainty in setting out and fully taking on the costs of living like that. Especially viewed alongside starting up a career. It works well for insecurity issues to be flaring again for him. So the context for me differentiates it quite a lot and it also works really well in the season and for a contrast to the challenges Buffy and Willow are facing I think.
                          I agree that the circumstances are different based on Xander's age at the time (feeling of insecurities in high school vs insecurities in young adulthood etc) but he's still more or less dealing with the exact same thing. Both episodes are about his feelings of inferiority, the comparisons he makes towards others, and "finding his cool" so to speak. I don't have a huge problem with that as we rarely overcome our issues permanently and wrap them up in a neat little bow and there's enough between S3-S5 to make it understandable Xander has taken a few step backs (his feelings of inadequacy at being a "townie" or "butt monkey" etc). However, in terms of originality, this and the retreat of the doppleganger idea, makes the episode a bit of a retread in terms of plot and themes. I just don't find it particularly original even if it's inoffensive and perfectly enjoyable.

                          I find the treatment of Anya's victim raises pretty interesting questions when there is a cycle of violence and a victim becomes a perpetrator and the original perpetrator the victim. The way Burns is dealt with is unsympathetic but that cycle is raised within the narrative I think and so prompts us to question the fairness of it.
                          See, I don't think it prompts us to question anything. Burns is portrayed like a 100% villain, he's attacked by Buffy and quite brutally killed by Xander, and then the audience erupts into cheers and Willow makes a joke about decorating his corpse with flowers. After that he's never mentioned again in the remainder of the episode except to point out he was engaging in trickery and then the narrative shifts to making us feel terrible for Anya at being left at the altar. He's beaten to death and discarded and his demise is literally applauded by those who witness it. The other characters besides Anya never even find out that he's one of her former victims and the episode doesn't even dare tread a place of questioning whether Anya faced some karma.

                          Now, obviously I don't condone Burns threatening Anya or hitting her and the show is consistent in saying that vengeance is not the answer. However, it absolutely places more weight on how terrible it is that Anya is left at the altar in comparison to the fact that she sent a man to a hell dimension, turned him into a monster, and left him there to be tortured to death for something as mundane as cheating on his spouse. What Anya did to Burns is way worse than what Xander does to Anya, what Anya goes through is far less worse than what Burns had to go through, and part of the reason Anya went through it is because she was a villain who did horrendous things to people (and at this point doesn't really exhibit any remorse). The episode's dismissal of all that and the way in which Burns is dispatched of is really quite unpleasant to me and I feel it's portrayal of Burns is one dimensional and cartoonish when it could have been quite nuanced and troublesome.

                          It's not the only reason I dislike the episode. It makes no sense the Harris family can go toe to toe in a battle with vengeance demons and I feel like they've abandoned all kind of world-building, it's farfetched that Spike is even invited to Xander's wedding, I feel it was a poor choice to cut the line explaining Giles' absence, and overall I do find the episode quite dull. But I do find Burns to be the most unpleasant thing about it and think the series loses it's moral footing a bit here. The other Xander episodes on this list overall make me feel happiness.

                          ~ Banner by Nina ~

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                          • Skippcomet
                            Skippcomet commented
                            Editing a comment
                            I think by this point in the show the writers were resigned to the fact that a large vocal part of the audience would never give Xander a chance. Too many had made clear they would only accept an ending in which Xander married Anya.

                        • #17
                          Originally posted by vampmogs View Post
                          I agree that the circumstances are different based on Xander's age at the time (feeling of insecurities in high school vs insecurities in young adulthood etc) but he's still more or less dealing with the exact same thing. Both episodes are about his feelings of inferiority, the comparisons he makes towards others, and "finding his cool" so to speak. I don't have a huge problem with that as we rarely overcome our issues permanently and wrap them up in a neat little bow and there's enough between S3-S5 to make it understandable Xander has taken a few step backs (his feelings of inadequacy at being a "townie" or "butt monkey" etc). However, in terms of originality, this and the retreat of the doppleganger idea, makes the episode a bit of a retread in terms of plot and themes. I just don't find it particularly original even if it's inoffensive and perfectly enjoyable.
                          I think it is important to how deeply ingrained these issues are for Xander and seeing that it goes beyond a sense of inferiority in a social sense in high school. As you say, people's issues are often not quickly fixed but how it can pull down even his attempts to move away and make something of himself ties his childhood problems to his adult life in a way that is really important for where the character goes on to. Having that bridge from The Replacement strengthens his S6 and then reinforces his potential when he regains confidence and a sense of place in S7 as well. I think it really builds into the sense of the threatening and negative figure his father was, the toxic masculinity and expectations of self he has. It takes it all a step further for me.

                          I can see what you mean about the sense of another doppelgänger episode, but the circumstances are different enough for me that it doesn't feel that way.

                          See, I don't think it prompts us to question anything. Burns is portrayed like a 100% villain, he's attacked by Buffy and quite brutally killed by Xander, and then the audience erupts into cheers and Willow makes a joke about decorating his corpse with flowers. After that he's never mentioned again in the remainder of the episode except to point out he was engaging in trickery and then the narrative shifts to making us feel terrible for Anya at being left at the altar. He's beaten to death and discarded and his demise is literally applauded by those who witness it. The other characters besides Anya never even find out that he's one of her former victims and the episode doesn't even dare tread a place of questioning whether Anya faced some karma.
                          I really don't see it like that as we know that he was a victim of one of Anya's vengeance spells and we get some sense of how horrible what she did to him was and it is presented as out of proportion to why she was doing it. And of course Xander became Burns' victim as well as Anya. The full history is part of the episode and the negative consequence and sense of violence breeding violence is inherent to their pasts leading to influence their present. So, the fact that Anya's past caught up with her in the same way as Xander's history spills over to affect his life and both of their issues destroyed what they had in the present does brings a focus on the whole timeline of events for me.

                          I also think Anya's choice then to return to vengeance at the end of the episode is the start of the stage that leads to her finally facing her past and what she has done. It takes a long time though, but it starts with Stuart Burns. Her negative choice that led her to do the damage to Burns, who then hurt her in retaliation, is repeated and she turns again to being what she was that played such a crucial part in the wedding falling apart. So the story loops back to her choices and I think that in itself raises again the question of her own culpability in how she got there.

                          In terms of the wedding guests cheering, that is from their reduced perspective and also their acceptance of violence, which the ridiculous brawl was also underlining. That so many at the wedding aren't really caring about the emotional trauma Anya and Xander are going through is yet another element that emphasises the negative influences of their pasts. It isn't something to cheer about, it has been a traumatic experience for them both and Anya's devastated face and Xander's exit underlines that. But obviously the guests aren't the examples to follow.

                          For me it isn't presented as worse that Anya is going through what she does against what happens to Burns. It's about the cycle and ties between the two. Obviously, for Xander as well. I do think you are right that we are led to feel sympathy for Anya and see her pain. But I think that her distress is reflected in Burns' anger as well and we're supposed to be considering that and what was done to him as well. They're two sides of the same coin and it is just very much a part of the episode to me. And, as I said, it follows through to her attempt then to get vengeance on Xander. The negative circling has to eventually be broken.

                          It's not the only reason I dislike the episode. It makes no sense the Harris family can go toe to toe in a battle with vengeance demons and I feel like they've abandoned all kind of world-building, it's farfetched that Spike is even invited to Xander's wedding, I feel it was a poor choice to cut the line explaining Giles' absence, and overall I do find the episode quite dull. But I do find Burns to be the most unpleasant thing about it and think the series loses it's moral footing a bit here. The other Xander episodes on this list overall make me feel happiness.
                          I agree with you about the line regarding Giles' absence. But I don't think it is farfetched that Anya would insist in offering Spike an invitation. Her sense of being an outsider and still wanting to link with the demon community, the times her and Spike have chatted on the outskirts of the group, coupled with the part he played while Buffy was dead all I think make the invitation coming from Anya totally plausible.

                          As for the fighting, I can see your point. I don't find it difficult though to accept that the demons aren't fully lashing out because of the context and are just seeing it as an amusing brawl. The morals of those attending being questionable connects to them as influences on Anya and Xander and the whole event becoming an awful mess in multiple ways.

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                          • #18
                            For me it's The Zeppo because that's where we see the true Xander. In every other episode he is under magical or demonic influence or being tricked by a demon.

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