Except, of course, when it isn't. Because sometimes denial and fury and desperation produce works of phenomenal quality, stories so good, so perfect, so right, that I find myself cursing the canon writers for failing to think of this themselves and save us all this trouble.
That's what we have here. Repair work as it should be: better than the canon itself. Some of these are AUs. Others are interpolation or extrapolation built around the troublesome canon. But they all fix what I consider to be errors. (And of course we're using my own definition of canon errors; this is a supremely self-centered LJ, after all.)
The Best FF That Almost - Almost - Makes a Whole Wretched Season Worthwhile, Though I Imagine That I Might Feel Differently on That Point If I'd Actually Seen the Season in Question, as Opposed to Just Reading the Summaries with Ever-Increasing Horror: Poison, by Mandy, aka geneticallydead. Oz, Tobias Beecher/Chris Keller. OK, so we all know that season 6 of Oz was one big fan-fuck in a show full of fan-fucks, right? Some people have tried to deal with this by expunging the very memory from their minds. Others have regressed, fleeing to happier times in earlier seasons (and when you're defining the second season of Oz as a better place, you know you're in some kind of trouble). Mandy's taken a different approach; she twists the results of Keller's suicidal leap a bit, and suddenly we're back on the right path. Well, back on the true path; it's not like anything could be right and good and happy in Oz. But this comes as close as anything will, and it's satisfying on other levels, too; we get a really good look at what's going on in Keller's mind - a scary proposition, I'll grant you, but a worthwhile one - and we get to see Beecher using his brain and his will together for once.
Best FF in Which the Grounds of the Beverly Hills Hotel Have the Same Effect on the Characters That They Do on Me, Namely a Strange Sense of Unreality, As Though I'd Been Transported to Las Vegas, and a Strong Desire to Be Elsewhere: The Memory of Hurts, by Sinead, aka smallbeer. Sports Night, Dan Rydell/Casey McCall. It's not like Sports Night ever broke the way, for example, Oz or Homicide or Buffy did. It wasn't around long enough to deteriorate that badly. But the second season is harder to take than the first for a lot of reasons, most of which arose, I suspect, from Sorkin angst. (Hint to all TV writers out there: we use therapists to deal with our problems. We use television for entertainment. Try to keep the two separate, OK?) It's hard to explain the abrupt changes in Danny's personality from season one to season two, for example. And when you look at the way Casey and Danny behave right at the end of the show and compare it to the way they behave in the pilot, it's clear something has changed a lot. But we're never shown what that is, so it's jarring. Sinead fixes all that, and blends her story seamlessly with canon. (Note for sensitive Danny/Casey shippers: This story is definitely a season two story, but it does have a happy ending.)
Best FF That I Love Even Though Everyone I Know Who Has Read It Has a Different Opinion About What Happens in It (and Do Feel Free to Weigh in on That Point, Because - Surprise! - I Am Convinced I'm Right): What You Wish For, by nwhepcat. Buffy the Vampire Slayer x Angel the Series, gen. This story is amazing because it fixes two major canon irritations (which isn't to say that there aren't lots left in the Whedonverse for other aspiring writers to address) - one for each show. And, in the process, it shows just how much better FF writers can do on occasion than, for example, Joss Whedon. In season four of Buffy, Giles and Xander get sort of lost - it's like the writers just couldn't think what to do with two handsome, strapping men who had lots of experience at fighting demons and bouncing back from personal trauma, even though that is the ideal resume in Buffy's world. And in season one, episode nine of Angel, Doyle dies. For no real reason. Just because the writers wanted to prove that they'd damn well kill whoever they wanted to kill. (Yeah, right. We believe that. Because they were so likely to kill off, say, Angel, right?) The problem of Xander's aimlessness is totally solved in this story. And even though Doyle doesn't actually live on in this fic, somehow it made me feel a whole lot better about his death.
Best FF Featuring a Title That Sums up Both the Story and the Canon Problem the Story Fixes. Plus I Just Really, Really Love the Title and I Wanted to Spend Some Extra Time Talking About It. Tepid Apocalypse, by Molly, aka molly36.* The Sentinel, Blair Sandburg/Jim Ellison. And here we have a series ender that just made no sense. Because, OK, I've never actually watched the series, but I know enough about the situation in "The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg" to know that a) there were other and better ways of resolving it and b) the way they picked wouldn't actually work. So that's fairly irritating. Also, way to destroy the character of Blair and the relationship balance between Blair and Jim, folks. Just in general, this episode's plot says to me, "We needed a dramatic last episode, and after 20 minutes of vodka-ridden thought, this was the best idea we had on the table." So post-TSbyBS stories that make that concept work impress me - I mean, the fic author is doing way better than canon writers did, yeah? And "Tepid Apocalypse" also manages to find a new balance between Blair and Jim, repair the character damage the episode did, and just generally fix what went wrong when the fine writers of The Sentinel had whatever massive brainstroke they did. In other words, this is a textbook case of canon repair. Go, Molly.
* Thanks, pearl_o!