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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Fear Itself

Oz: "Maybe it's because of all the horrific things we've seen, but hippos wearing tutus just don't unnerve me the way they used to."

This is, in my opinion, a terrific Halloween episode: a joy to watch, from beginning to end. We have mood (Buffy suffering from post-Parker depression and the general freshman blues), setting (Halloween in Sunnydale), a unifying theme (fear), an extremely funny denouement ("actual size"), plus great character bits throughout.

What are their fears? Buffy has been depressed and overwhelmed since college started, and being dumped by the first guy who asked her out didn't help. Her Red Riding Hood costume hinted that she wanted subconsciously to return to her childhood; the Haunted House kept playing on her fear of being abandoned by her friends and family. Xander literally felt invisible; he has been left out of college life, and Anya, with her usual lack of tact, pointed out that he has nothing in common with his friends any more.

Willow and Oz both feared being out of control. Willow, determined to cast a spell to get them out of the frat house, accidentally gave her tinker bell lights conflicting instructions, and Oz began to wolf out when there was no full moon.

Anya was tremendous fun in this episode. She knows about the supernatural stuff already and has a thousand years of experience to draw upon; nothing fazes her. She is sort of floating around the edge of the Scooby gang, not yet a member, but starting to act like one. She certainly knew enough to fetch Giles when the house started to act up.

After three years tied to the library and the Watcher's Council, the writers are having a lot of fun with the character of Giles. Two of my favorite bits in this episode were Giles' silly Halloween costume with the sombrero, and the horror movie staple of the chainsaw when Giles had to create a door.

Bits and pieces:

— This episode's candidate for a vampire dinner is Professor Walsh. What's with her? Is every prof at UC Sunnydale a jerk? At least Riley, the T.A., was nice to Buffy.

— The commandos showed up again, and the Scoobies just thought they were in costume.

— The opening music was from the movie Halloween.

— Buffy decking the guy in the demon costume was just fun.

— The costumes were terrific. Willow and Oz's complementary costumes were especially clever. I also liked the lobster and the gift box arguing in the hallway.

— Hair report: Anya's is lighter, the same color as in season three, and shorter.

— Anya arrived at the haunted frat house in her scary costume: a bunny ("Bunnies frighten me.") (P.S. from 2005: This was the first Anya/bunny joke, a staple comic bit that we'll definitely be seeing again.)

— We heard about Xander's Uncle Rory again, although we still didn't see him.


Guy: "Thanks for the loan, man. Our sound system sucks."
Oz: "Mi casio es su casio."

Guy: "Eyeballs, man. Blindfold chicks and have them stick their hands in the bowl and tell them it's eyeballs. They love that."
Xander: "And here I was wasting time buying them flowers and complimenting them on their shoes."

Xander: "Hey, Red. What you got in the basket, little girl?"
Buffy: "Weapons."

Buffy: "Will. Medieval Will."
Xander: "Hail, ye olde vareletty thou."
Willow: "I'm Joan of Arc. I figured we had a lot in common, seeing as how I was almost burned at the stake, and plus she had that close relationship with God."
Xander to Oz: "And you are?"
(Oz pulls his jacket open to reveal a nametag with 'God' on it.)

(Two commando guys wearing ski masks and carrying guns step out of the bushes.)
Buffy: "Nice costumes. Very stealthy."
Willow: "What are they supposed to be?"
Oz: "NATO?"

Xander: "Who's a little fear demon? Come on. Who's a little fear demon?"
Giles: "Don't taunt the fear demon."
Xander: "Why, can he hurt me?"
Giles: "No, it's just tacky."

Giles: "Oh, bloody hell. The inscription."
Buffy: "What's the matter?"
Giles: "I should have translated the Gaelic inscription under the illustration of Gachnar."
Buffy: "What's it say?"
Giles: "Actual size."

This is the best one this season so far, so it's getting four out of four stakes,

Billie Doux reviewed all of Buffy and Angel, so she knows the plural of apocalypse.


  1. The "who's little fear demon" exchange is one of my most often referenced Buffy quotes (up to and including the "No, it's just tacky"). Yes, I know that's weird.

    I don't remember much of anything about the episode at all --- except for the bunny costume, of course --- but when I saw you were re-watching 'Fear, Itself' I went, "The one with the fear demon! Yea! 'Who's a little fear demon?'" So happy to see it quoted in full in your review. :)

  2. "No, it's just tacky" is one of my go-to Buffy lines, so it was fun to see it again.

    Otherwise, this episode doesn't do a lot for me. It's fun, but once I knew the joke/denouement, it's always lost something in the re-watch. Not a bad episode, just not one I rush out to watch again.

  3. I enjoyed it, though more the first half than the second. I agree with Billie's review that the fears for each of the Scooby gang were nicely outlined, but I feel I could have identified them before the episode so nothing new. It was fun though. My favorites all came from the first half though:

    Buffy playing with all the pumpkin goo then getting up and running her fingers through her hair with no residue? Stuff like that really distracts me.

    “It’s alive!” I love goofy Giles.

    Halloween is amateur night for the truly evil. I always suspected as much.

    Aww, Anya is kind of cute when she’s sentimental, “It’s been a week since we copulated.”

    I clearly had very uninterested professors. If I missed a class no one gave me the glare of death.

    Joan of Arc Willow is so cute.

  4. Finally caught up and I enjoyed every minute of this episode. I enjoyed Hallowe'en Giles and Anya's fear of Bunnies - thousand year old demon - what does she know about bunnies that we don't? I agree that the fears were sort of obvious but the point is that when they are alone that they are vulnerable. Once they were all together again, they were able to work things through. Of course, Buffy should have listened all the way through the directions Giles was giving. They were lucky that the demon was tiny. Even as a teeny demon he still managed to create a lot of havoc. I wondered, is broken neck guy still dead? Fear can kill. Just ask the extras.

  5. This is a good fun episode, but has never been a favorite of mine.

    I do enjoy the scene with the tiny demon, I like that he is seemingly oblivious to the predicament that he found himself in... do you think he was just trying to bluff his way out of danger?

  6. Newbie report:

    After last Halloween episode, I had high expectations for this one. Boo.

    First "I don't have a boyfriend" Buffy. Hey. I remember High School. When I didn't have a boyfriend I didn't sit around and mope. I went to parties alone. I had fun as a single teen. And I wasn't even a beautiful superhero. Buffy, get over it. She's supposed to be a strong leader but she's consumed by self-pity. Even her Halloween costume. Xander is James Bond. Willow is Joan of Arc (I love how Willow has grown from last year's invisible ghost). And Oz's understated God is the best! Even Anya the vengeance demon is a scary (to her) bunny rabbit. But Buffy is Little Red Riding Hood, on her way to getting eaten by a wolf, presumably. It is possible to do a powerful Red Riding Hood. Look at Once Upon a Time. Buffy went as wolf-bait. (Aside - does she ever snap out of it? When the re-watch is finished, I'll go over to the spoilers page and read your answers.)

    Now for the good parts.

    I loved Joyce at the sewing machine, reminiscing about past Halloweens with Buffy's dad and the trick-or-treating. A nice personal interest moment to build our love for Joyce. (I know). I shed a tear for Giles. All dressed up, giving his all for the spirit of the holiday, and not getting any trick-or-treaters. I've been there, Giles.

    I liked the Scoobies dealing with their fears and fighting through them. I liked the haunted house. Then there was the actual rising of the fear demon. What a disappointment. I think the writers simply tried to hard on the joke. They should have done it straight - have the Scoobies fight together, pushing through their fears to conquer a powerful demon. That would have been an awesome.

    Buffy, the girl who mopes around and doesn't slay vampires.

  7. A fun lil episode :) I watched it back to back with the last one so I was still in the 'i hate Parker' mode and immediately raised hands to vote bashing him.

    Demon (in squeaky voice): I am the Dark Lord of Nightmares. Trrrrrremble before me

    Willow: He is so... cute

    Lol. Rewatching is fun!!!!!

  8. I actually really enjoy this episode. It's silly fun, but it deals with the characters fears in a way that's actually relatable, I think. College is always new, and I always felt that the first year was there just to make me feel all of my insicurities. Man, I wished they had been a tiny fear demon for me to squash.

    I really start loving Anya right around here. I love that she's so completely unaware of normal human behavior, and so naive in certain aspects after being a vengance demon for so long. Also, I believe this blogger here proves that her fear for bunnies might noy be that unfounded:


  9. Bea, that link is fantastic.

    Please, readers: click on Bea's link.

  10. OMG, that bunny post is one of the best things I've ever seen on the net. I have tears on my cheeks from laughing so hard. Thanks so much for posting that link, Bea.

  11. I remember reading that for the first time and having my mind on Anya all the time. See? Bunnies can be scary... I mean, imagine running into that cloud bunny!

  12. I'm a little behind in my Buffy rewatch! I love this episode. No, the writing isn't overly subtle, but I really do love it. Halloween might still be my favorite BtVS Halloween episode, but only by a hair.

    One of my favorite parts is when Giles says he needs to create a door and Anya's all impressed thinking there's some awesome magic involved and he just pulls out a chainsaw. And then of course Buffy squishing the demon and the "actual size" gag.

    pucklady - One of my favorite parts of Buffy is when Buffy's feeling sad, weak, or vulnerable. She's a bonafide save-the-world hero and I love that Whedon and co. allow her to be less than perfect. I find it a really inspiring concept that heroes have their off days too and that's okay.

  13. Fun episode. Personally, the most notable thing about this one is the line "Don't taunt the fear demon," because I have a friend that used to say that all the time and I only now where he got it.


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