Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Halloween

Buffy: "So how come Halloween is such a big yawner? I mean, do the demons just hate how commercial it's become?"

Buffy the Vampire Slayer has an advantage over other shows in the Halloween episode competition, since there are already vampires in the cast. What can Halloween mean when your life is already full of demons? The premise that the real monsters tend to stay home on Halloween is just wonderful, partly because it taps into the actual traditional meaning of the holiday: scaring away evil beings.

Having people turn into their costumes is a wonderful twist. Ethan Rayne tells us the central theme, which is division of self: male and female, light and dark, "chunky and creamy. Oh no, sorry, that's peanut butter." When Buffy becomes a helpless, ornamental eighteenth century girl with no memory of being the Slayer, her desire to be a "normal girl" plays out, but ends badly. Soldier Xander finally lives out his fantasy of protecting Buffy, but unfortunately, he's not himself at the time. Willow illustrates the theme perfectly by dressing up sexy, and then covering herself up with a ghost costume before Xander can see her. Giles also reveals hidden depths, since Ethan Rayne turns out to be an old chaos-worshiping friend of his. We see Giles in a new light when we learn he has a "past," and when he coolly pummels Ethan for information.

This is the first time I noticed that there's a Scooby Chain of Command, and it goes: Buffy, Giles, Willow, Xander. This episode is a perfect example. Buffy becomes an eighteenth century airhead, Giles isn't there, and Willow automatically takes charge and tells everyone what to do; she even gives orders to soldier Xander. Willow goes off to find Giles, and Xander takes charge and gives orders to Cordelia and Angel. When Giles and Willow go to Ethan's shop, Giles is definitely the boss again.

Bits and pieces:

-- Ethan calls Giles "Ripper." This is the first episode that makes reference to Giles' past.

-- My favorite bit is a ghostly-sexy Willow walking through the library wall and shocking Giles, who tosses catalog cards into the air. My second favorite is a bemused Spike walking around with a huge grin saying, "This is just... neat."

-- Buffy and Angel attempt to have a first date. Sort of.

-- Larry (Larry Bagby III) is introduced. Xander is upset because Buffy violated the guy code by saving him from Larry. Xander usually deals pretty well with Buffy being stronger; perhaps it's because of the school setting.

-- Cordelia is told that Angel is a vampire, and doesn't believe it.

-- Willow's experiences give her new confidence, and she walks around after the melee in her sexy costume. Oz, driving by, sees her and again says, "Who is that girl?"

-- Oz has a zebra-striped van with the drivers' side on the right instead of the left.

-- Ethan leaves a card that says, "Be seeing you..." This is a catch phrase from the cult sixties series, The Prisoner.

-- Obligatory dog reference: Spike says to Drusilla, "Come here, poodle." Cordelia tells Willow that she was "attacked by Jo-Jo, the Dog-Faced Boy."

Quotes:

Larry: "Do you think she'd go out with me?"
Xander: "Well, Lar, that's a tough question to... No. Not a chance."
Larry: "Why not? I heard some guys say she was fast."
Xander: "I hope you mean like the wind."

Giles: "I'll have you know that I have very, uh, many relaxing hobbies."
Buffy: "Such as?"
Giles: "Well, um... I enjoy cross-referencing."
Buffy: "Do you stuff your own shirts, or do you send them out?"

Cordelia: "Oh, he's a vampire, of course! But the cuddly kind. Like a care bear with fangs?"

Buffy: "I'll show him I can coif with the best of 'em."

Willow: "She couldn't have dressed up like Xena?"

Four out of four stakes,

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

25 comments:

Mark Greig said...

Sarah Michelle Geller in that 18th century dress... hey, beating heart, be still already.

ChrisB said...

This is the first time I noticed that there's a Scooby Chain of Command, and it goes: Buffy, Giles, Willow, Xander.

So true and I never thought about it until I just read it.

This is one of the earlier episodes that, watching it for the first time, I knew I was in for a treat. I always love watching characters play against type -- and this is the perfect example.

I love Giles here. It's great to see him step out of Watcher mode and become a badass. For me, it was the first time I realized that he has a very deep, hidden strength. Just increased my already crush on him.

Miguel said...

I love this episode. Let me count the ways:
- Buffy as a scared 18th century maiden prone to fainting
- Willow trapped In that sexy ghost outfit. Loved the exchange with Giles: "the ghost of what exactly?"
- Oz checking out willow "who is that girl!?"
- Cordelia discovering Angel is a vampire finally and becoming more part of the gang
- More dimension being added to Giles and first getting glimpse of his ripper persona
- Buffy and angel making smoochies. I'm a sucker for first love stories.

For me was the first truly great episode of Buffy that reminded me during this rewatch how wonderful this show can be.

Billie Doux said...

BUFFY RE-WATCH comments begin here! Remember, no spoilers for future episodes. Want to talk spoilers and foreshadowing? Post them here. Let's get others to join us! Please click the Twitter/Facebook buttons at the bottom of the review.

I actually woke up this morning and thought, yay! We got to "Halloween"!

Ben said...

"This is just... neat."

The moment I truly fell in love with this series, I had been infatuated before, but this is the moment I loved it.

The irreverent humor and sly wit was all there really IMHO for the first time. It just got better from this point on.

celticmarc said...

Oh wow, what a treat.

Loved it at the beginning when the vamp got a gourd, then a pumpkin on his head. These little details add to the fun. I'm a newbie and I'm hooked.

"Miss Summer ! Just the juvenile delinquent I was looking for." "Do you mind Buffy ? I'm trying to repress."

Xander as a soldier cracked me up. Giles as a ripper freaked me out. "What's your deal ? Take a pill !"

"Hi honey, I'm home." And of course Oz at the end : first with the parka, now with the sexy outfit. Come on Spike ! You give up quite easily. Oh heck, you shall return (good).

Great stuff.

Suzanne said...

I adored every minute of this episode. This episode has it all. It has the incredible humor that I love in Buffy, an interesting plot, great villians (Ethan, Spike, and Dru), twists (Giles back story), and good roles for every cast member (with the possible exception of Angel since he is made to look a bit wimpy since he seems useless at defending everyone).

My favorite part of the episode is the way that Willow steps up and takes a leading role. She was quite good at it, too. Of course, Oz's reaction to see her was priceless. This episode is just so much fun, which is something I really love about this show. It is a joy to watch.

Annie said...

There's so much that I love about this episode... Spike's there which is always a good thing, we've got a bit of Oz, again always a good thing.

Favourite bits being:

Cordelia ranting at Oz about Devon – brilliant!

Willow telling Giles what has happened and explaining that she's a ghost. His response – 'the ghost of what exactly' – always makes me snigger

Giles and Ethan when we see a darker side to Giles and learn that he is known in certain circles as 'ripper'!!!.

Xander as a soldier.

Angel laughing with Cordelia, he's better when he's not brooding.


Downside :

Buffy makes a really annoying and unbelievable damsel in distress... and that dress is ugly!

sunbunny said...

This is one of my favorite episodes of the entire series (#12, but who's counting?). At least half of that is due SMG's HILARIOUS delivery of her amnesiac lines. "What does it want?" "Surely some men will protect us." "Possibly a baron." "Do you have a musket?" PERFECTION.

Also worth noting is the way Angel picks up Buffy to run from Spike. It's so casual, as if his girlfriends frequently get amnesia and become totally helpless.

Oh, and to answer your question: the reason Xander reacts badly to being rescued by Buffy is that a) it was her honor he was attempting to defend and b) there was nothing supernatural involved. He's more than okay with letting Buffy save him from vampires and demons, but a bully?

Suzanne said...

Annie, the first couple times I watched this I had the same reaction to Buffy as a damsel in distress. However, this time I found it to be hilarious. I think it has something to with her power being one of the most attractive features of the show for me the first time around, so I missed it when it was gone. This time I was able to see the humor in it. :)

celticmarc said...

Well, well, well. Immense pleasure re-watching, yes, but also reading the reviews AND the comments. And I'm quite convinced that our beloved Billie is happy too.

(not regretting my purchase, wink, wink, wink)

Bea said...

Fantastic episode! As many of you said, it seems to have it all: the characters, the wit, the plot and the villian. Not only does it all come together beautifully here, but I think this is where the show starts to truly gain momentum.

pucklady said...

Newbie report:

Now that was more like it.

I'm retitling this show: Buffy, The Girl Who Never Slays Vampires, But Has Really Cute Friends.

This was an interesting premise that I haven't seen done before. Although, I am having a problem with the idea that the entire town, including all the kids, bought costumes from that one new store in town. The older store must have had a really bad year, and doesn't anyone sew any more? But moving on.

I liked badass Giles, badass Xander (swoon!) and badass/sexy Willow. I'm not really sure why Soldier Xander would defer to Willow, though. That seemed weird when I watched.

I liked the chaos in the town and everyone with the notable exception of Buffy (yay!) working to solve the problem.

I did have some problems with the pacing. Too much time moping around in the beginning of the episode and a too-quick resolution. Smash the statue. Done. All solved. I was really excited to see Giles punch somebody. I wanted that to play out longer. Less moping, more punching.

David Boreanaz looks so young in this show - like a big dog puppy that hasn't grown into his feet.

ChrisB said...

Giles as badass. Swoon.

I like this one a lot, because the show is finally beginning to find its pace and its mythology. Hilarious dialogue, good character development and a decent plot. I always find myself really excited about upcoming episodes now as opposed to seeing them as things to get through before we get to the good stuff.

sunbunny said...

pucklady - "David Boreanaz looks...like a big dog puppy that hasn't grown into his feet." Laughed out loud. That's EXACTLY what he looks like. :)

TJ said...

And now it begins. This is where the show really starts to kick off IMO. Wonderful episode. Hey, there's Larry!

It's interesting how uninteresting Buffy was without her powers. Which really means that Buffy as a person isn't really that great. It's her powers that defines her. This is something I think is important for the rest of the series.

Scary Giles, how cool was that? There really is something more to him that we don't really know about...yet.

Great great episode. And now we can really roll on...not a bad ep in sight for a while...

sunbunny said...

Ohh TJ. Have to disagree. Buffy wasn't Buffy in this episode. She didn't have her memories, she didn't have her personality. (minor spoiler alert) In a later episode, Buffy loses her powers and she is still strong and she is still kick ass. I don't think the show would be that interesting or that good if Buffy wasn't a great person. She's smart and she's strong regardless of superpowers. Here, she's a totally different person. It's not her fault her costume was such a ditz. Well, I guess it is a little, but it's not like she knew she was going to turn into it. :)

Josie Kafka said...

Pucklady, you mentioned that you are "not really sure why Soldier Xander would defer to Willow, though. That seemed weird when I watched."

I think Xander's obedience is due to the "I felt like I was trapped in there" quality to the costume-curse. He naturally defaults to Willow (cf. Billie's chain of command) and just kept that up without realizing that it's odd for a soldier to take orders from a ghost...of whatever.

I love Giles's reaction to Willow walking through the wall. Especially the way that they let it take its time.

SMG looks great as a brunette. I'm biased, since I'm a brunette, but still.

My own personal quibble: it's weird that Buffy's costume turns her into, as Sunbunny said, such a ditz. That seems to imply that strong women are culturally constructed rather than a thing that might happen naturally in any era.

If anyone is interested in a fun novelization of that era, I recommend Emma Donaghue's Life Mask.

TJ said...

Sunbunny, interesting. We'll have to disagree then. For me, this show makes a point of having the heroine in a not-so-likeable-mode sometimes. We have already seen pieces of that in this season opener "When she was bad".

Maybe it's just me, but we'll see later on. After all, it's all just a matter of interpretation I guess...

sunbunny said...

TJ - I wasn't trying to suggest Buffy is perfect - far from it. She has her moments of weakness and brattiness just like anyone else. I just think it's wrong to suggest that she wouldn't be a hero without her slayer powers. Imho, Joss did his best to make her a hero, but make her real at the same time. (P.S. I hate the word heroine.)

Josie - SMG is lucky to have the coloring to make both colors work. I personally think the brown here is just a little too dark for her, but she does in general look good as a brunette. My favorite hair color on her is the darker blonde of later seasons (although I may be biased, because that's my hair color...) ;)

Juliette said...

I love this episode. 'The ghost of what, exactly?' :) But I also imagine a really cool parallel universe where she actually did dress up like Xena...

The only slight issue I have is that Buffy's far-too-bright-pink dress is hideous. Whedon put Kaylee in a similarly hideous pink monstrosity in Firefly. I like the idea of tough warrior/engineer girls having fun being girly for a change, but they could be more tastefully girly...

a.m. said...

I loved this episode and everyone's already listed why--Oz, Spike, Angel, alternative personalities, and the whole gang together. Even with all that, my favorite part was Giles/Ripper. That was totally shocking to me and the look on Giles' face at the end was truly terrifying.

I had a really busy week, so I watched this one early but had to wait to comment on it. It was so good that I almost watched it twice--but alas, work called. I will come back around to this one in the future though!

Austyn said...

I remember watching this when it first aired. I must have been about six. Upon rewatching, I know why. This was such a smart concept, and really well done. I did find Buffy a bit heavy-handed and annoying, after all, women back then were also intelligent and strong. I loved Angel scooping her up. I wish Buffy would stop the "he doesn't like me" mopefest. It's pretty clear that he does.

Other than that, a really stinking enjoyable episode. It was the reason that I insisted on being something good for the next several Halloweens as a little kid.

Nox said...

Hi all, I'm rather late to the Buffy Re-Watch (but catching up fast). This is actually my first time watching Buffy and after months of resisting/being apathetic about seeing the show for the first time, I finally gave in. Needless to say, I'm ecstatic I did. :)

This was actually the episode that made me a complete fan. There were several episodes I enjoyed, but this was the first one where I paused half-way viewing to do something and I was antsy to get back as soon as possible so I could find out the ending. Seriously, the concept in this episode is sooo good.

may sommers said...

Hi Billie,love your posts.Thanks so much for reminding ppl no spoilers.I'm a newbie and just finished the episode today.i do like the show alot esp.the sidekicks willow and xander.love giles and ms calendar too!