Long TV seasons — those 22-episode runs I used to take for granted, and now occasionally long for — make for some very weird timing. There isn’t a Buffy for me to talk about between the beginning of March and the end of April, which is one thing—but the episode before that long break is “Killed By Death” What were they thinking?
And what were they thinking when this season went into winter break with “Ted,” only to come back with “Bad Eggs” — followed immediately by “Surprise”?
Not that “Ted” is top-ten-worst-episodes levels of terrible, exactly, but this kind of tv timing — placing a middling monster-of-the-week episode after a heavy two-parter that does a lot to shift this season’s overarching plot — feels so of an era. There weren’t midseason finales, back in the day, but there was also just more room to play. Shrinking seasons have done away with some of the filler — a word that sounds like a pejorative, but I don’t mean it that way. Let’s call it narrative filler: episodes that didn’t move a story arc forward (at least not much), but allowed for character work to thrive. I can think of a lot of shows that could benefit from more of that that, and only one that’s really good at it: Legends of Tomorrow, which flips the standalone/arc ratio (of what I watch, at least), transforming it into “episodic funtimes with the looming threat of a Big Bad.”
“Ted” is a character episode, and another moment for Buffy to be right (eventually). To get a win — if one that comes after a lot of struggle. This is either the show building her up before it tears her down so cruelly, or giving her a cushion of confidence from which to bounce back from Angel’s impending betrayal. Which it looks like to you is probably some sort of Buffy Rorschach test: do you see cruelty, or kindness?
Season 2, Episode 11, “Ted”
Written by: David Greenwalt & Joss Whedon
Directed by: Bruce Seth Green
Original airdate: December 8, 1997
Rewatch date: December 8, 2017
“Willow, tell me you didn’t keep any parts?”