Celebrate Halloween by watching Buffy
Halloween is upon us and what better way to celebrate, then by watching the cult hit show Buffy The Vampire Slayer. But not just any episode will do, the show has three episodes that take place on Halloween. Like most episodes of Buffy there is a lot of fun to be had with these episodes but there's also a lot of great character exploration that takes place. Halloween is a holiday that combines the scary with the fun and these episodes do a great job of that.
Season 2, Episode 6 "Halloween"
Among some of the weaker episodes of the first half of the show's second season is episode six simply titled "Halloween". This episode centers around the traditional elements of the holiday. From the costumes that people choose to taking kids out to trick or treat. This episode is not only fun but also provides a lot of insight and character development for Buffy and her friends Willow and Xander.
The episode really starts when a spell turns most of the town's residents into their costumes. Including Buffy, Willow, and Xander who turn into an 18th-century lady, a ghost, and an army soldier. For Buffy, her costume reflects who she thinks she needs to be in order to be with her romantic love interest, Angel. However, after she is transformed she becomes weak, naive and does not have her slayer abilities to protect herself and her friends. By the end of the episode she realizes that all she needs to do is be herself in order to get the guy.
At the beginning of the episode, Xander is being bullied by a classmate. Buffy steps in to help and Xander is not so grateful. He doesn't want to seem like a lesser man by having a girl fight his battles for him. Once he turns into a soldier, he becomes more confident in himself to take action and fight. He even gets his revenge on Larry the bully, who was turned into a pirate.
Like Xander, Willow is also searching for some confidence. She starts out in a somewhat revealing outfit only to put a ghost sheet over herself. Buffy tells her that if she wants people to notice her then she can't be shy and hide. Once she is turned into a ghost she is back in the skimpy outfit underneath. Since Buffy and Xander have no memory of who they actually are, Willow has to take charge and figure out what's going on. By the end of the episode, she has gained some confidence in herself. When she is returned back to her body in the ghost sheets, she simply takes it off and walks down the street in stride.
Another aspect of the episode is that it introduces the villain, Ethan, who is an old friend of Giles, Buffy's watcher. This allows Giles to be seen in a different light. Not the fumbling, stuffy librarian we know, but rather a bit of a bad ass deep down.
"Halloween" is a great episode that has fun with its theme and is probably the best of the three Halloween episodes. It's fun, it's got a great plot, great character work and really plays with the inherent campiness of the show.
Season 4, Episode 4 "Fear, Itself"
The second Halloween episode takes place at the beginning of season 4. It's called "Fear, Itself" which is a play on the phrase, "there's nothing to fear but fear itself". Now that Buffy and her friends are a little bit more grown up and in college, this episode takes place in a haunted frat house. The exterior of the house is actually the same one that is used in the first season of American Horror Story.
This episode is all about the fears that the scooby gang have about themselves. The costumes this time have nothing to do with the plot. Instead, the gang are invited to a frat party where the house has been cursed to play on the literal fears of people and make them real. Buffy is dressed as little red riding hood because she sees herself as the heroine of the story. The one to defeat the big bad wolf, but her fear is that the men in her life always leave her. While the house doesn't really play with Buffy's fear she does learn that in the end her friends will never leave her and that's what's important.
Willow dresses up as Joan of Arc, and her fear is that she will only be seen as Buffy's sidekick. When things go wrong, Willow wants to take the lead and solve the problem with magic. Her fear is externalized when she does a spell that goes wrong and does not know what to do. Xander is dressed as James Bond and his fear is that his friends are leaving him behind since he is the only one not going to college. It's slowly revealed that his friends cannot hear him nor see him. The last character affected is Oz, Willow's boyfriend. Without giving away too many spoilers, Oz is concerned that is going to become a monster. His fear is that he will hurt people because he can't control the monster. Specifically, he doesn't want to hurt Willow, which he accidentally does as he starts to turn into a monster.
Now these fears are not really solved by the end of the episode. Instead, they are played out for the rest of season 4. What this episode does is show the insecurities of each character, as well as how far they have come in the series. However, "Fear, Itself" does have a funny ending twist with the fear demon that caused all the trouble, complete with the gang sitting on the couch eating candy.
Season 6, Episode 6 "All the Way"
The last Halloween episode and probably the weakest of the three is season six's "All the Way". Spoilers for those that have not seen Buffy past the ending of season 4. A new character is introduced at the beginning of season 5 and it is Buffy's little sister, Dawn. "All the Way" is centered around Dawn trying to get away from being "Buffy's little sister" and trying have a fun teenage experience during Halloween.
While the first two episodes focused on the characters' identities and used elements of Halloween to explore that, "All the Way" feels like a regular episode that just happens to take place during Halloween. There is some small character development, but it mostly focuses on Dawn. If you are not a fan of Dawn then you might not like this episode as much as the other Halloween episodes. A weakness of the episode is that her character doesn't really progress by the end and we don't gain a whole lot of insight into who Dawn is as a person.
Buffy doesn't really have much to do this episode except to be the concerned older sister. Willow and Xander do get some small character progressions. Xander takes a step towards adulthood even though we find out later that he is not actually ready for it. Willow takes a step towards something that she doesn't even realize is a bad thing. These are small insights into who the characters have become and where they will go for the duration of season 6.
There are some fun Halloween elements, such as the costumes and the cliche of the old creepy man inviting children into his house. There are a lot of good moments and comedy in this episode but compared to the other Halloween themed episodes it falls a bit flat. The best part is that once you are done watching this episode you can go right into the next one. Which is the highly praised musical episode, "Once More, With Feeling".
If you have some time on (or near) Halloween, I highly recommend that you watch these three episodes. Or if you have never seen Buffy and don't mind spoilers go ahead and watch them because the first two episodes "Halloween" and "Fear, Itself" are some of the better episodes of the show. Now, Buffy has several other episodes that might not take place during Halloween, but are still very creepy and scary. One of the best episodes of the show is "Hush". It has some amazingly creepy looking villains called The Gentlemen who want to steal the hearts of the townspeople. In order to do so, they remove take away the voices of everyone in Sunnydale. Which results in an episode that is mostly silent but makes up for with a cinematic score, that is both eerie and a bit reminiscent of Danny Elfman's Batman theme. So that is also a choice you can watch either in addition to or instead of some of the three episodes listed above.
Have some fun this Halloween and be safe! Go ahead and celebrate by watching some Buffy the Vampire Slayer!