Top 10 Most Controversial Teen Drama Episodes Ever

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Top 10 Most Controversial Teen Drama Episodes Ever

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Sammie Purcell
These controversial episodes put the drama in teen drama. For this list, we'll be looking at the most notable times adolescent-centered shows scandalized, shocked, or upset people, sparking conversations. Our countdown includes "Glee," "Gossip Girl," "Dawson's Creek," and more!
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Script written by Nick Spake

Top 10 Most Controversial Teen Drama Episodes


Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Controversial Teen Drama Episodes Ever.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the most notable times adolescent-centered shows scandalized, shocked, or upset people, sparking conversations. Since plot points will be discussed, a spoiler alert is now in effect.

Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below.

#10: “The Lonely Hearts Club”
“The O.C.” (2003-07)


Marissa Cooper and Ryan Atwood were the main dramatic coupling on “The O.C.” But you might remember Marissa’s relationship with a different blonde in season two. Alex Kelly started out as a possible romantic interest for Seth Cohen. But when she and Marissa started hanging out, it was impossible to miss the sparks between them. The two share a pivotal first kiss in an episode called “The Lonely Hearts Club.” It was a big moment, but it wasn’t all sunshine and roses behind the scenes. Show creator Josh Schwartz has spoken about the network being “nervous” about the reaction to the Marissa/Alex storyline. He even had to resort to “bartering for kisses.” The pair’s relationship was unfortunately short-lived, ending mere episodes later.

#9: “Loser Like Me”
“Glee” (2009-15)


Gleeks everywhere swooned for Kurt and Blaine from the moment they met in the second season. Sadly, we learn in the season six premiere that they’ve called it quits, breaking off their engagement. But Kurt wants to work things out. Except, much to his surprise, Blaine is dating someone new. An even bigger surprise is that person is Dave Karofsky – the same Karofsky who made Kurt’s life miserable before coming out as gay. While he had changed since those days, some felt it was odd that Blaine would get romantically involved with him given the history. Needless to say, this was a couple many felt no reason to root for at all.

#8: “They Shoot Humphreys, Don’t They?”
“Gossip Girl” (2007-12)


“Gossip Girl” was known for being racy, and they used that to their advantage when teasing this season three episode. The promo made it obvious that some characters would be trying out a threesome for the first time. And while that was true, we kind of think it over-promised. In the episode itself, Olivia, Dan, and Vanessa decide to get intimate. But all we really see is a few kisses, and the trio in bed after the fact. Nevertheless, parents freaked out, with the Parents Television Council even petitioning the CW to cut the episode. There was a lot of hype, but whether it was warranted is debatable…

#7: “Effy”
“Skins” (2007-13)


Freddie McClair was widely beloved on “Skins.” He was an all-around great guy, and his connection with Effy was truly special. As any avid viewer of the show knows, it didn’t shy away from dealing with serious issues. But many people found Freddie’s last moments unnecessarily horrific. In this season four episode, Effy is seeing Dr. Foster, who’s supposed to help her with her mental health. But it soon becomes clear that he‘s obsessed with her, so she wants to cut ties with him. And Freddie delivers that message. But the psychiatrist then sets up a meeting with the latter character, where he beats him to death with a baseball bat. It was an incredibly scary moment for fans, who felt Freddie deserved better.

#6: “Pilot”
“Euphoria” (2019-)


“Euphoria” constantly pushes boundaries – and they wanted us to know that from the jump. The drama addresses everything from addiction to intimacy in the pilot alone, and it’s not afraid to delve into the darker side of things. Jules’ storyline in the episode is one of the show’s most graphic moments. The teen sets up a date with an older man through an app, and their sexual motel encounter is loaded and explicit, to put it mildly. Sure, he thinks she’s 22, but still. To make matters even worse, the show later reveals that man to be Cal, the father of Jules' classmate Nate. Audiences were shocked, and learned right away that “Euphoria” was not messing around.

#5: “With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept”
“One Tree Hill” (2003-12)


Sometimes, difficult storylines are the most impactful, which is what happened with this episode of “One Tree Hill.” Jimmy Edwards gets a firearm and brings it to Tree Hill High, placing many of our main characters in danger. The topic at hand was heavy, sensitive, and unsettling, and certainly affected people. As if that wasn’t enough, Lucas’ uncle and father-figure Keith, aka Dan Scott’s brother – tries to connect with Jimmy toward the end of the episode. Unfortunately, the teen takes his own life. Then Dan shows up and delivers the drama’s most shocking twist, ending Keith’s life and framing Jimmy for the act. It was a gutsy move for the show and it ultimately paid off, but audiences definitely missed having Keith around.

#4: “True Love”
“Dawson’s Creek” (1998-2003)


“Dawson’s Creek” had people talking from the jump. But even though Pacey making out with his teacher in the series premiere was pretty scandalous, this moment from the season three finale takes the cake. The episode obviously gave us Dawson’s famous crying face. But it also made history, delivering what’s widely been referred to as the first “passionate” or “loving” kiss between two men on primetime US television. In it, Jack heads to Boston to reconnect with his love interest Ethan, and they kiss. The episode’s director, James Whitmore Jr., has said that WB executives were a little nervous about airing the lip-lock. But they decided to go for it despite any backlash they might receive, giving Jack – and the audience – the moment they deserved.

#3: “Accidents Will Happen”
“Degrassi: The Next Generation” (2001-15)


Some subjects are deemed so “contentious” that the powers that be want to keep them hidden from us. Such is the case with this two-part episode of “Degrassi: The Next Generation.” When Manny Santos learns that she’s pregnant with Craig Manning’s baby, she has to decide what to do. While Craig is happy about the news, Manny isn’t so sure. She eventually decides to terminate the pregnancy, drawing some criticism from her circle. But she’s sure of her choice. Needless to say, it was a groundbreaking moment, especially at the time. But it didn’t go over well with everyone. Indeed, the Canadian show’s storyline was so controversial that the “Accidents Will Happen” episodes didn’t air in the U.S. until more than two years later.

#2: “Seeing Red”
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997-2003)


The relationship between Buffy and Spike and the latter’s journey to find a soul were some of the most interesting parts of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” But there were definitely intense bumps along the way. Most fans likely remember the moment in “Seeing Red” where Spike attempts to violate Buffy. Thankfully, she’s able to fight him off, but it was a really painful and disturbing moment for viewers. The actor who played Spike, James Marsters, felt the same way. While he said the storyline provided an important step forward in Spike’s pursuit of a soul, he also described the experience as “unbelievably hard.” As entertaining as “Buffy” is to rewatch over and over again, this episode remains incredibly disconcerting.

#1: “Tape 7, Side A”
“13 Reasons Why” (2017-20)


Possibly the most controversial teen show of all time, “13 Reasons Why” had its fair share of champions and detractors. But even those who loved it couldn’t deny that the season one finale went a little bit too far. The show is about a teenage girl named Hannah who’s taken her own life, leaving a series of tapes explaining her reasoning. There are plenty of rough moments throughout the first season. But the finale, in which Hannah is actually seen performing the act, prompted a ton of debate about what’s appropriate to show on a TV series. In fact, roughly two years after the finale aired, Netflix edited the original scene to be much less horrific.
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