Ranking the Buffyverse Ships From Most to Least Toxic
Relationships can be a special kind of hell.
It’s a “funny” thing that despite both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel the Series exploring many feminist subjects, the relationships on the show do tend to veer into toxicity and abuse. Let’s look at the Buffyverse ships, ranked from most to barely at all toxic.
Some notes I had in mind while compiling this ranking: 1) These relationships all involve at least one main character on either Buffy or Angel and 2) The relationship listed here all last more than one episode. (And sorry, I won’t be going into the comics).
Also, heavy spoilers.
I don’t think I really need to get into everything wrong with this relationship apart from that it literally is the start of an apocalypse and a major part of the character assassination of Cordelia Chase.
Harmony and Spike are basically just using each other for satisfaction, with Spike staking her and sleeping with her almost at the same time. Harmony seems to also struggle with self-respect issues, coming back to him even years after their breakup. The weird part for me is that Spike sleeps with her after being resurrected on Angel, despite him previously having shown almost no interest in any other women since he realized he had a crush on Buffy.
This relationship is meant to be toxic, being a fascinating exploration of female-on-male abuse; Angelus was a monster of Darla’s making, spurred on by her. And yet when he recovers his soul, his first instinct is to try and stay with her because she is all he knows. But his newfound soul doesn’t allow him to commit evil, so they break up. Then they go through a similar back-and-forth when Darla is resurrected as a human in Angel and spends most of her time trying to get him to turn her back. For a time it does seem like he’ll be able to help her, only for that to be snatched away.
This ship leaves a bad taste in my mouth, mostly because before, during, and after the relationship, Xander is constantly insulting Cordelia, which goes against her doctrine of ‘take-no-BS’ from anyone. Also, when she dumps him the first time, he responds by trying to magic her into loving him just so he can be the one to dump her. On top of all of that, he ends up cheating on her with Willow. But at least the show acknowledges the relationship as being not very healthy, which is more than most of the relationships on this list can say.
I almost can’t bring myself to care that they’re toxic, they were so cute in season 2. Obviously, Spike is possessive and Drusilla is a cheater, and that leads to an unhealthy couple. But he was so tender with her; as far as vampireXvampire pairings in these shows go, they were at least not the worst.
We literally have an article on the site about everything wrong with this relationship. Basically, Riley is a “nice guy” let loose, who shifts all the blame/responsibility for the relationship onto his girlfriend, who has more important things going on. Seriously, if anyone tells you, “I love you so much I can’t think straight,” run in the opposite direction as fast as you can. Even worse is that he gets a happily ever after with a badass military wife less than a year after cheating on and leaving Buffy. Screw Riley and the writers for making him.
This is Sarah Michelle Gellar’s preferred Buffy relationship (though considering the relationships on the show, that’s not saying much). I will admit, I shipped them when I first watched the series and “The Becoming “remains the most heartwrenching duo of episodes in the series for me. But this ship does end up losing a lot of points since 1) The age difference is a minor dating a much (much) older man, 2) Buffy continuing the relationship in Season 3 feels conflicting, and 3) Angel ends up being the one to break off the relationship because he thinks Buffy can’t be rational about it. Buffy, who already killed him once to save the world, can’t be rational. Even their one-off episode reunion of Angel comes off badly in hindsight because he continues to claim he needs to be a strong vampire to protect Buffy … despite them being in different cities and rarely interacting afterward. Not to mention all the stalking.
Willow and Tara in Seasons 4 and 5 are honestly some of the cutest stuff on the show. Unfortunately, like with many things, Season 6 turned them into a mess of toxicity. Willow straight-up brainwashed Tara, which is unforgivable on its own but especially when you consider Tara’s abusive upbringing. I’m glad Tara got out when she did, but with the way things ended up, I can’t help but wish they had stayed broken up.
“Seeing-Red” single-handedly brings this ship down into the depths of toxicity. Well, that and the Buffy Bot. And the whole “Crush” episode. Yeah, this relationship has its moment but honestly, there was a lot of toxicity that we forgave because of James Marsters’ charisma.
Oz is mostly a very chill dude who is a great straight man to the zaniness. However, he and Willow’s relationship does get complicated by Willow’s cheating, his cheating, and then his anger over Tara. Though he at least acknowledges the problem.
Passion of the Nerd put this relationship as “the right thing at the wrong time is still the wrong thing” and personally, I agree. This relationship was a mistake, but one that the characters learn from. Mostly. The best part about this relationship is that Xander and Willow’s friendship does get much healthier from here and literally saves the world in Season 6.
Most fans hate this relationship and I am inclined to agree. For one thing, they never make the age difference clear between the two. (Kennedy is a potential but they never state the maximum age for a potential.) Also, it was way too soon for Willow to jump into a new relationship. While Kennedy earns some points for helping Willow through her grief, I don’t think anyone was surprised or upset when they broke up in the comics.
While this relationship was very cute when it happened, Wesley has a lot of toxicity to him that I don’t think really got addressed. Also, the whole horrible episode where Wesley gets turned into an abusive misogynist always colored my perception of this ship.
This relationship always felt weird because it felt like the show itself supported Wesley/Fred more than Gunn/Fred. Still, they have a lot of sweet moments together and even after they go their separate ways, they’re friends.
Anya deserved better, but I think this pairing had the most growth in the series. Out of most of the couples in the Buffyverse, they had the greatest chance of making it work long-term. But Xander’s self-doubt in Season 6 ruins their wedding and is basically the stain on their relationship that never goes away. Season 7 also couldn’t seem to decide on whether they were broken up or not, constantly going back and forth in a way that got exhausting after a while. How many times can a couple have sex ‘for the last time.’
If you don’t remember her, she’s Giles’ “sex friend” from Season 4 who comes to Sunnydale every now and then to spend the night with him. However, the relationship seems to fizzle out after she finds out that supernatural demons are real and Giles is very involved in fighting them. The relationship is more a representation of Giles’ attempts to discover himself outside of his role as a Watcher and also the unfortunate cost that being a Watcher laid on him (namely not having a wife or family outside of the Scooby Gang). Still, it seems pretty healthy and the breakup is amicable enough that she apparently attended his funeral in the comics.
Seeing as they’re two of the most mature characters on either show, they manage to have a pretty healthy relationship; Jenny gets Giles out of his comfort zone while also respecting his boundaries and acknowledging her wrongdoings. He also doesn’t let his love for her override his responsibility to Buffy as her Watcher/father figure. Her death remains one of the biggest tragedies in the series.
I know there are many fans who will never be able to move past Seeing Red, and I completely understand that. But considering the show treats souled vampires as different from their pre-souled versions, I think it’s fair to rank them separately. The scene of Spike and Buffy just lying in bed together in Season 7 is honestly one of the show’s best moments of emotional intimacy.
Season 4 aside (which can be discounted due to Jasmine/Joss screwing things up), these two have perhaps the healthiest relationship in Angel. Cordelia calls Angel on his BS but also has the willingness to understand, forgive, and help him. Their last episode together was originally meant to be Buffy/Angel’s last episode together but honestly, I think Cordelia works much better because they’ve been on this journey together.
What’s your favorite ship on Buffy and/or Angel?
(featured image: 20th Century)
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