Doing Away With Filler Episodes? That’s A Mistake.

I was watching an YouTube video about season two, episode six of Angel “Guise Will Be Guise. The video brought something to my attention while I was watching it. You see “Guise Will Be Guise” is a filler episode in Angel season two. It doesn’t at first glance have anything to do with the overall season arc. It’s an episode that plays timeout with the current season arc and the season’s big bad and trades it in for some lighthearted fun. It’s by all definition a filler episode. But, that’s not a bad thing. I love Guise Will Be Guise, I think it’s a charming and funny episode. It’s a favorite episode of mines to rewatch of the show. But episodes like Guise Will Be Guise are disappearing with streaming services giving more and more shows a 13 episode per season, filler episodes will soon seize to exist.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the shorter seasons that streaming services are providing. If every television show I currently watch went the Angel and Buffy The Vampire Slayer route of 22 episodes per season I probably wouldn’t watch the half of them. So the shorter episode length that streaming services are doing are a good thing. They allow their shows to tell a complete story each season without having to add filler that won’t mean anything by the end of the season. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I sometimes miss the filler episodes that didn’t mean anything but provided good entertainment each season. The filler episodes are sometimes my favorite episodes to watch out of the blue. I will more often than not come back and watch an episode of a show I like that’s a filler episode than rewatch an episode that’s in the middle of a huge season arc. Filler episodes usually mean they don’t affect the overall plot of the season, but that doesn’t make them any less entertaining.

I like using Buffy and Angel as examples here because I think both shows do the best jobs with filler episodes than any other show I have ever seen. Buffy season three has episodes like Band Candy, The Wish, The Zeppo, and Doppelgangland. While Angel season three has Fredless, Billy, Birthday, and Waiting In The Wings. Incredible episodes that would probably never exist if they were made today. Which is a shame because those are fan favorite episodes by the respective fanbases. Filler episodes force a show’s staff and writers to think outside the box, to stretch their imagination, and get creative. We can only imagine what shows today could do with their stories if they were pushed past their restrictions and make some really interesting episodes that could potentially become beloved by viewers.

This isn’t to say that every filler episode is amazing. Some filler episodes are boring, prove to be unnecessary, and feel like they deliberately are there to distract you from the main plot. You can look no further than season two episode seven of Stranger Things. The previous episode had pushed the season arc forward and was made for people to click on the next episode to see what was going to happen next. But when people watched the next episode they were disappointed to find that it did not continue the drive the plot forward instead it took an unnecessary detour. That episode became universally hated by pretty much everyone who watched it because it stopped the plot to a screeching halt. It was by all definition a filler episode, a terrible one at that. So filler episodes can be hits or misses, I just think it’s unfortunate that we probably won’t be able to see many more of them anymore since television seems to be moving past them. I think that’s a mistake.

Though filler episodes are mostly used to distract viewers from the overall season arc, they can be very useful whether that be from developing characters, telling a unique story, or forcing writers to flex their creative muscles. And they help writers to get out of their comfort zones with their storytelling. I would love to see the occasional filler episode when done right. As long as there’s a reason for them and they are as entertaining as any other episodes, I think there’s still a place for filler episodes in today’s television market. But maybe that’s just me. I would love to know what everyone’s opinions are on filler episodes are. Do you prefer the 13 episodes per season that streaming services are now providing or the more traditional 22 episodes? And filler episodes, do you wish they would make a comeback, or do you think they are better left in the past? Comment down below.

4 responses to “Doing Away With Filler Episodes? That’s A Mistake.”

  1. I’m one of those who definitely likes the trend of shorter seasons that tell more concise and straightforward stories. I feel like I don’t have to make such a huge commitment when I see a season only has 13, 10, or even 8 episodes. Sometimes thinking about going back and watching series that I missed 10 or 20 years ago and seeing that they’re seven seasons long with 22+ episodes each… it’s overwhelming. (Says the guy who’s spent the last few years slowly watching back through Buffy and Angel.) You’re right about Buffy and Angel doing a pretty great job with most of their filler episodes. But I feel like for every great filler episode that explores character development while ignoring the overarching season story, there are at least half a dozen from series across the board that feel like completely wasted opportunities. I get that serialized stories are the way things tend to go these days. But a part of me misses one off episodes where there was no overarching plot to look for. You could miss a couple episodes in the season and not worry about trying to play catch up because you really didn’t miss anything important to whatever’s happening this week. I don’t know,.. I like it both ways, but can’t have it both ways.

    Liked by 1 person

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