Saturday, January 29, 2011

Buffy Blog: "Halloween"

Previously on Buffy: Spike and Dru are back, Dru just for one scene. Hurrah. Oz is back and is in a couple of scenes. Snyder’s back for one scene and once again forces the Scoobies to volunteer for something they don’t want to do. This time it is Sunnydale’s Halloween Safety Programme. In “Puppet Show” it was the Sunnydale High talent show.

Welcome to the Buffyverse: Larry (Larry Bagby III, one of two LDSers who acted in BtVS) makes his first appearance. Buffy pushes Larry up against the soda machines in SHS just before he is about to pummel Xander sending poor Xander into traumas associated with his masculinity or lack thereof (act one). Ethan Rayne (Robin Sachs) makes his first appearance in the Buffyverse (act two).

The Mystery: Buffy, Xander, and Willow have to chaperone young Sunnydaler’s during Halloween thanks to Principal Snyder (act one). They thus need to obtain Halloween costumes. Buffy, Xander, and Willow get theirs or some of theirs at what we later learn is a new Halloween costume shop in Sunnydale, Ethan’s. (act two). Halloween, says Buffy, is “come as you aren’t night” so Buffy, who is once again obsessing over Angel, dresses up as a eighteenth century noblewoman (Xander refers to her as “[m]y Lady of Buffdom”, “[t]he duchess of Buffonia”) because she thinks that noblewomen are the kind of woman Angel liked (he actually, as he tells Buffy later, found them simpering morons). Xander dresses up as soldier guy, presumably as a way to deal with the traumas associated with his dealings with Larry, the fact that Buffy has to save him, and to mask the fears that were revealed about him in “Nightmares”. Willow dresses up as “total rocker babe” but decides to come as she is when she puts a ghost costume on over her “black halter top, leather mini-skirt, boots” (act two). Remember that in “Nightmares” Willow didn’t want to be seen on stage.

As the Scoobies are doing their Halloween Safety Programme duties Ethan casts a Janus spell bringing “chaos”. We hear the wind blow. Some of the kids are transformed into the costumes they are wearing, monsters (first CGI in Buffy?). Buffy becomes eighteenth century “coiffed” girl. Xander becomes soldier guy. Willow dies and becomes a ghost (end of act two). Cordy and Angel remain who they are (act three). What is going on?

Revelations: Giles, it turns out, knows Ethan Rayne. After Willow has figured out what is going on (act three) she and Giles go to Ethan’s. Giles sees him says “Ethan”. Ethan responds to Giles by calling him “Ripper”. Ripper? Giles brutally beats and tortures Ethan to obtain information about what is happening. Ethan finally admits to Giles that he has cast a “chaos” spell. Giles throws the Janus bust to the floor just as Buffy is about to be bitten by Spike thus ending the spell. At the end of the episode Giles returns to Ethan’s to make sure he left Sunnydale, as Giles told him to. A note is on the cabinet telling Giles (and us viewers) that he will “be seeing you (Giles and us) soon”. We will, of course, see Ethan again in just a couple of episodes, specifically in “Dark Age” where we will learn more about Giles and Giles’s “Ripper” past. Wow. Loved Giles's "Ripper" stare into the camera eye.

Character: Buffy: Snyder continues to see Buffy as a “juvenile delinquent”. Giles: Giles enjoys cross-referencing. Buffy tells Giles Ms. Calendar thinks he is a “babe”. He is interested in what Jenny thinks of him. Spike: Spike uses the latest technology (a digital camera) to study Buffy in action. Dru: Dru has visions. She tells Spike that on Halloween, the day vampires hate and usually stay inside on, that something is happening which will make Buffy vulnerable. Spike goes prowling for Slayer meat. Cordy: Cordy is still trying to steal Angel away from Buffy. As Xander tells her “[g]ive it up, Cordy. You're never going to get between those two. Believe me. I know”. Cordy for the first time takes a good long salty goodness look at a buff soldier guy Xander. Can romance be far behind? Cordy is told that Angel is a “good vampire” but she doesn’t believe it. Oz: Oz once again, this time while driving in his steering wheel on the right van, sees rock girl Willow and asks “[w]ho is that girl?”, as he did in “Inca Mummy Girl”. He is about to find out.

Cordy Lore: Cordy tells Buffy “[l]ook Buffy, you may be hot-stuff when it comes to demonology or whatever, but when it comes to dating - I'm the Slayer.”

Vampire Lore: Halloween is “dead for the undead”. Vamps usually stay in during Halloween.

Mise-en-scene: The photograph of Buffy, Willow, and Xander once again plays an important role in a BtVS episode. After Buffy and Xander are transformed into coiffed girl and soldier guy they retreat to safety in Buffy’s house where both Buffy and Xander see the photograph but disbelieve what is right in front of their eyes, that they know one another.

Themes: Buffy is still struggling with the normal girl versus Slayer dilemma.

Gender: Willow tells Buffy that “guys are so fragile” after Buffy saves Xander from an almost certain pummeling at the hands of Larry. Buffy, to please Angel, tries to become more feminine by dressing up as coiffed girl. She is saved from almost certain death at the hands of Spike when Giles breaks the Janus spell. Just as Spike is about to bite her, the spell is ended, and Buffy, telling Spike that “[h]oney I’m home”, begins to pummel Spike. Is this a foreshadowing of the Buffy/Spike marriage plans in “Something Blue” in season four? Willow says she doesn’t like eighteenth century noble women, because of their “funny waist[s]”. They were, she says, “circus freak[s] and that she prefers to live in an era when women could vote.

Foreshadowings: When Buffy is plotting with Willow to steal the “watcher dairies” to read up on Angel see sarcastically tells Willow that “that would be wrong”. This phrase becomes central in the Buffy/Faith body switch episode in season four (“This Year’s Girl/Who Are You”).

Watcher Lore: Watchers keep diaries. Giles has “watcher diaries” from the past in his possession. Giles, of course, is a watcher, they who train and counsel the slayers. In “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date” Giles tells Buffy that Watchers are, like Sayers, “called”.

Popular Culture: There is a reference to that heroine of the ancient world Xena (an exasperated Willow says “You couldn’t have dressed up like Xena” to coiffed Buffy as she “crys, shrieks“ as Ethan’s spell takes over and transforms Sunnydale and Buffy, Xander, and Willow). Xander refers to Cordy who is dressed as a cat, “Catwoman”, a reference to the DC comic book, film, and TV figure.

High Culture: Janus is the Roman god of chaos.

The Moral of the Story: It is as Ethan says, “be careful what you wish for.” At the end of the episode Buffy decides she wants to be the “20th century me”.

The Chorus: “Halloween” is another one of my favourite Buffy episodes. Yes I have a lot of them. It is intelligently written, full of that wonderful patented Buffy wit and humour, a standalone yet an episode that reveals something about our beloved Scoobies and narrative arcs that are to come. “Halloween” is in many ways a companion piece to “Nightmares” before it and “Fear Itself” (another Halloween episode) and “Restless”, both season four episodes, after it. There will be another traumatic Halloween episode in season seven.

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