In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will have a bruised tail bone due to laziness. She will also recap every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with an eye to the following themes:
- Sex is the real villain of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe.
- Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
- Joyce is a fucking terrible parent.
- Willow’s magic is utterly useless (this one won’t be an issue until season 2, when she gets a chance to become a witch)
- Xander is a textbook Nice Guy.
- The show isn’t as feminist as people claim.
- All the monsters look like wieners.
- If ambivalence to possible danger were an Olympic sport, Team Sunnydale would take the gold.
- Angel is a dick.
- Harmony is the strongest female character on the show.
- Team sports are portrayed in an extremely negative light.
- Some of this shit is racist as fuck.
- Science and technology are not to be trusted.
- Mental illness is stigmatized.
- Only Willow can use a computer.
- Buffy’s strength is flexible at the plot’s convenience.
- Cheap laughs and desperate grabs at plot plausibility are made through Xenophobia.
- Oz is the Anti-Xander
Have I missed any that were added in past recaps? Let me know in the comments.
WARNING: Some people have mentioned they’re watching along with me, and that’s awesome, but I’ve seen the entire series already and I’ll probably mention things that happen in later seasons. So… you know, take that under consideration, if you’re a person who can’t enjoy something if you know future details about it.
Previously, on the Big Damn Buffy Rewatch, I said that Angel was like Chedward and y’all flipped directly out. So I’m leaving #9 as is. But I’m not going to downgrade Angel from dick status, because in this series, he really is a dick. If this was the Big Damn Angel Rewatch, #9 would be “Angel is a well-rounded and interesting character,” but this isn’t Angel so that’s not how it’s happening.
Since Halloween was coming up, and this is the Halloween episode of Buffy, I thought I’d sneak another recap in out of schedule.
This classic episode of Buffy opens with a fight in Pop’s Pumpkin Patch. Buffy will get into another pumpkin-patch related vamp fight in season 5, and it’s a long time until then, so enjoy Buffy throwing various fall vegetables at this vampire while you can. Someone is filming this fight, as well, and he forgot to charge the battery on his handycam.
This is a fight sequence that makes you really appreciate how much effort went into seamlessly integrating stunt artist footage with Sarah Michelle Gellar’s acting. If you haven’t watched it in a while, I encourage you to Netflix that shit immediately. Buffy stakes the vamp, and cameraman vamp fades away so as not to get the same.
After the opening credits, we see Angel at the Bronze, in normal human clothing and not the dark and brooding fall essentials from the Heathcliff Collection. Cordelia sidles up to the table and tells Angel that she’s waiting for Devon, but he’s a flaky musician type. Note that Devon is the singer of Dingos Ate My Baby, the band that Oz is also in. She sits down with Angel just as Buffy walks through the door. She sees Angel genuinely laughing at something Cordelia is saying– wait.
Wait a second.
Cordelia is telling Angel all about how her Barbie car was nicer than Devon’s car, and he’s apparently really into it? This doesn’t jibe with any characterization of Angel we have seen or will seen. I choose to believe he’s just laughing out of politeness and nervousness about meeting up with Buffy, because season two of Angel Angel would be like, “I don’t know or care what that is.”
Buffy turns to leave– and wait again.
Wait a second.
I really hate how whenever Buffy sees a guy she likes talking to another girl, she just fucking leaves. Like, oh, I guess I’m not wanted here, I’m going to go cry about how I’ll be forever alone. I get the idea of not wanting be in a competitive teen girl fight over a dude, or swoop in and squash someone’s vibe, but Buffy doesn’t even bother to see what the situation is. She doesn’t even say hi. It bugs me that Buffy is supposed to be a Strong Female Character ™ and she just gives up when it comes to any conflict that doesn’t involve physical violence. It just adds to that whole, Strong Female Character ™ trope wherein being strong physically = being weak in literally every other area of thought, word, and deed.
Anyway, Angel sees Buffy leaving, then catches up with her. He picks a piece of straw out of her hair that got left behind in the pumpkin fight, and Cordelia comes over and says:
Cordelia: “Buffy. Love the hair. It just screams ‘street urchin.'”
This is what I mean. Buffy knows that Cordelia is shallow, vain and nasty at this stage of the game. Buffy is smart enough to solve all these supernatural crimes, but she’s not smart enough to realize that Cordelia is going to be openly hostile to her, thus giving Buffy the high ground in front of Angel?
Then, because Cordelia took a shot at her appearance, Buffy straight up cancels her date with Angel. The thing that she’s wanted this whole time, a step toward a normal relationship, and she rejects it because her hair doesn’t look good?
In fairness to Joss, though, this episode wasn’t written by him. It was written by Carl Ellsworth.
This is what Buffy says to Angel right before she abandons their date:
Buffy: “But who am I kidding? Dates are things normal girls have. Girls who have time to think about nail polish and facials. You know what I think about? Ambush tactics. Beheading. Not exactly the stuff dreams are made of.”
Then she just leaves, and Cordelia is left with an opening to swoop in. Which she does.
Okay, let’s take a look at what Buffy is really saying there. “Normal” girls think about being pretty, while thinking about violence is something girls who are not “normal” do. We have the script blatantly stating that all girls are one way, or should be one way. #6. And I realize some of you are thinking to yourselves, “But that’s how it really is for teenage girls, it really does feel like that when you’re a teen.” I feel you. But the show backs up this assertion of “If you want a boyfriend, you have to act appropriately feminine” through all seven seasons. Buffy never has a successful romantic relationship, specifically because of her Slayer duties. Meanwhile, Cordelia racks up the boyfriends, goes on to a spin-off show, finally becomes a well-rounded and realistic character, and then every shred of the character is brutally destroyed when she finds happiness. The show constantly reinforces the notion that if you’re a Strong Female Character ™, you don’t deserve love, because being a SFC is enough.
At school the next day, Principal Snyder is forcing kids to “volunteer” for this Halloween safety program wherein high school students accompany younger kids trick-or-treating. To keep them safe. Because Sunnydale is all about the safety suddenly? Jeez, if you wanna be safe, you should definitely move, people. Buffy says she’d rather stick to fighting vampires than wrangling children (ain’t that the truth?), but Snyder has other ideas.
Here we pause to examine why, exactly, would Snyder keep making the Scoobies do stuff that requires responsibility when he thinks they’re all fuck ups?
This whole volunteering thing really puts a damper on Buffy’s plans:
Buffy: “Great. I was gonna stay in and veg. The one night a year things are supposed to be quiet for me.”
Xander: “Halloween, quiet? I figured it would be a big old vamp scare-a-palooza.”
Buffy: “Not according to Giles. He swears that tomorrow night is like, dead for the undead. They stay in.”
This is one of my favorite things about this show. They will often take a trope of the horror genre and turn it right on its head. Halloween is supposed to be monster time in a big way. Think of all the horror movies where some shit goes down on Halloween. The Crow. Trick or Trees. Jeepers Creepers. House of 1,000 Corpses. Pet Sematary. Jeez, there’s even a whole horror franchise called Halloween and it has like a gabillion movies in it. We know that Halloween is monster time, but in the Buffyverse, it’s more like Columbus Day, if the post office were full of vampires.
Xander goes to get a pop from the vending machine, where he is confronted by the introduction of Larry. Larry is a minor recurring character on the show who easily gets one of the most interesting and touchingly realistic character arcs, even if it’s done for comedic relief. More on that later. Right now, I need to make you aware of this fact:
Yup. Larry isn’t Ernie anymore. He’s “Ice.”
Larry wants to know if Buffy is Xander’s girlfriend, and if not, would she go out with him. And of course, Xander tells him no, Buffy isn’t his girlfriend, but he plans that she will be one day (#5). Larry has heard that Buffy is DTF, because apparently that’s a rumor going around. Dude, what’s up with this guy being such a jerk on Halloween?
Now, for a minute here, I’m like good job, Xander! because he says this:
Xander: “Look, that’s my friend you’re talking about.”
So you think, wow, he’s really going to stick up for Buffy. Then he grabs Larry’s shirt and says he’s going to do something “manly,” but Larry is stronger and is about to punch out Xander’s lights. Buffy intervenes, saving Xander from a pummeling, and this is the thanks she gets:
Xander: “Oh, I’ll forget about it. Maybe fifteen, twenty years, when my rep for being a sissy-man finally fades.”
#5, #6, and holy homophobia, Batman! Buffy saved Xander from a major ass-kicking, but all he cares about is the fact that people might think he’s gay. Seriously? Because a girl defended you, Xander? He’s completely ungrateful. See, it’s okay for him to take a punch for Buffy’s “honor,” but not for Buffy to help him out. Even grosser, when Larry asks Xander if Buffy is his girlfriend, he says he feels their friendship could become something more, so obviously Xander doesn’t look on Buffy as a friend, but as a goal to obtain. If they were really friends, they would be equals, and it would be no big deal if Buffy helped him out in a fight. Because that’s what friends do. Friends help friends in fights.
I think Willow sums up the entire situation the best:
Willow: “Poor Xander. Boys are so fragile.”
Willow asks Buffy how her date with Angel went, and it went… a lot differently in the telling than what the viewer saw. Buffy says that she showed up looking horrible, and Angel was in a great mood because Cordelia was there with him. Which isn’t what happened at all. Buffy showed up with straw in her hair from the pumpkin patch, yes. But he wanted Buffy to stay. He tried to get her to stay. The moment she showed up, he ditched Cordelia. It was Buffy who flaked, not him. Willow tells Buffy that Cordelia isn’t Angel’s type, and Buffy points out that they don’t exactly know what his type is. Okay, point taken, Buffy, but last night he showed a clear interest in you and you blew him off because of your own insecurities.
Willow thinks it just too darn bad they can’t sneak a look at the private Watcher diaries Giles keeps locked up in his office for super secret Watcher reasons, because they could read up on what Angel is like. And obviously, they’re good girls and they’re not going to break in to Giles’s office and sneak a peak at his personal files, because that would be wrong and hey look, there they are at the library door:
Buffy sneaks in and heads straight for Giles’s office, but he spots her and tells her that since she’s going to have some free time on Halloween, he should probably monopolize the hell out of it. This results in Buffy cracking on him for being old and having no life, and Giles insists he has lots of hobbies, but he can’t think of any besides cross-referencing. Buffy motions Willow into the library in the hopes that she can sneak into Giles’s office and steal the diary while Buffy distracts him. When Buffy tries to question him about the reason Halloween is a vampire night off, he realizes that, hey, Buffy doesn’t really give a shit about Slayer stuff at any other time, so she’s up to something. This leads Buffy to a more desperate distraction tactic, and she tells Giles that Ms. Calendar said he’s hot. This is super effective, Willow grabs the diary, and Buffy tells Giles he should ask Jenny out before bolting after Willow.
In the bathroom, Willow and Buffy see a sketch of a woman from Angel’s human times in the Watcher diary.
Willow: “Man, look at her. Who is she?”
Buffy: “It doesn’t say, but the entry’s dated 1775.”
Anyway, Buffy and Willow talk about how this girl was probably the type that Angel was into:
Buffy: “Must have been wonderful to put on some fantabulous gown, and go to a ball like a princess. And have horses and servants, and yet more gowns.”
Willow: “Yeah. Still, I think I prefer being able to vote. Or I will, when I can.”
Good girl, Willow.
Cordelia comes in and gloats about spending the evening at the Bronze with Angel. She asks Buffy what he’s like, and why they don’t see him around more often, and after some hints that Cordelia doesn’t pick up on, Buffy straight up tells her that Angel is a vampire. Cordelia doesn’t believe her, though, and thinks Buffy is just trying to scare her off:
Cordelia: “Look, Buffy, you may be hot stuff when it comes to demonology or whatever, but when it comes to dating, I’m the Slayer.”
Let’s get married, Cordy.
Later, at a costume shop, Willow picks out a ghost costume and shows it to Buffy for her approval. Buffy nixes it, citing the time honored tradition of girls being able to dress sexy on Halloween without repercussion or judgment. HA! Since fucking when? Yeah, you can dress sexy, aka, “slutty,” and probably get away with going out of the house that way against parent objections, but absolutely your peers are judging the fuck out of you and saying shit behind your back. Buffy also tells Willow that she’ll never get noticed unless she dresses sexy. #6, Buffy.
Xander decides that he’s going to go as a super manly army guy, and Buffy promises that she’ll never stop him from getting beat up again. Which is really no more than he deserves. Then Buffy sees an elaborate princess gown, and suddenly…
This is Ethan Rayne, Giles’s
ex-boyfriend old nemesis, but the Scoobies don’t know that yet. He makes a big deal about how great Buffy is going to look in the costume, even offering to give it to her when she says she can’t pay. And since Buffy is big into the “poor me, I’m not a princess” theme this episode… she falls for it hard.
Spike is back– yay! Spike!– and he’s in his abandoned factory lair, watching the video his minion took of Buffy fighting. Spike has a real appreciation for the way the Slayer fights, which is kind of refreshing. So many vamps on this show are like, “I’m gonna kill the Slayer,” but Spike puts real effort into the job. That’s why we like Spike.
While Spike is watching the tape, Drusilla meanders in and tells him of a vision she’s had. Someone new has come to Sunnydale, and this is going to be a game changer.
Cut to the costume shop, where the guy we don’t yet know is Ethan Rayne is worshipping Chaos. LIke you do. Though it seems to fly in the face of discord to do a spooky ritual on Halloween, when everyone should be expecting that kind of thing. He should just do it on a random Saturday.
At Buffy’s house, Buffy and Willow are putting on their costumes. Buffy has dressed like the girl from the book, complete with towering black hair, and Willow is going as a mid-90’s Aerosmith video.
Buffy is psyched to be dressed up all historical style to meet Angel after the “volunteer” trick-or-treating program. Willow still just wants to go as a ghost, because she’s uncomfortable with the way she’s dressed, but Buffy explains to her that Halloween is one night of the year that they can be different than who they really are. Buffy’s excitement at this prospect, and Willow’s discomfort with it, gives us great insight into their characterization. Buffy longs to be someone else, because she isn’t happy with who she really is. Willow, on the other hand, doesn’t want to be anyone else. She likes herself. Buffy is certain, with the single-minded surety of a teenage girl, that her friend needs to break out of her shell; what Buffy doesn’t realize (and can’t realize, until like, season seven) is that Willow isn’t the one who needs her self-esteem fixed. If Willow faces the rejection of her peers, she does so with an almost cheerful inevitability, while Buffy collapses. Willow has a sense of self, and Buffy seeks it from others.
Xander meets Buffy and Willow at the house, but when Willow comes downstairs, she’s wearing her ghost costume. Willow is staying true to herself. Good job, Willow.
At Sunnydale High, ponytail dad isn’t an embarrassment to his child yet:
Snyder leads a group of kids over to Buffy and warns her to return them in one piece. Look, Snyder, I know Buffy is kind of a delinquent, but I’m pretty sure she’s not going to dismember the children. Larry, who is dressed as a pirate, teases Xander about Buffy being his bodyguard, and Cordelia, in a skin-tight leopard print suit and a cat ear headband, confronts Oz in the hallway:
Oz: “Hey, Cordelia. Jeez, you’re like a great big cat.”
Cordy: “That’s my costume. Are you guys playing tonight?”
Oz: “Yeah, at the Shelter Club.”
Cordy: “Is Mr. I’m-the-lead-singer-I’m-so-great-I-don’t-have-to-show-up-for-my-date-or-even-call going to be there?”
Oz: “Yeah, you know, he’s just going by Devon now.”
If you haven’t watched this one in a while, do, and pay particular attention to the brilliance of Charisma Carpenter’s delivery on “That’s my costume.”
So, Cordelia got stood up, and she wants Oz to tell Devon how much she doesn’t care. And it’s like, so much, guys. Cordy doesn’t care so much that Oz shouldn’t even tell Devon her message about how much she doesn’t care, then she stalks away and– okay, apparently this guy is going as season four Xander for Halloween:
Oz sarcastically laments that he’ll never find a nice girl like Cordelia, then turns and runs directly into Willow, whom he doesn’t recognize due to her ghost costume. They do the awkward, which-way-are-you-going-oh-god-I-picked-wrong-why-can’t-we-figure-this-out dance of apology before going their separate ways.
True to his costume, Xander is marshaling his group of trick-or-treaters like a drill sergeant and telling them to cry and lie to get candy. Whatever it takes to get the job done. Then we cut to Buffy and her group, almost finished trick-or-treating. The kids have just been given toothbrushes by some bastard who fundamentally misunderstands Halloween (though full disclosure, I always thought it was awesome when the fire fighters in our town handed out toothbrushes after they hand-checked our candy… which I believe they still do, even now in 2013) . Buffy consoles them by saying that they can go to one more house before they have to head back to school.
In other words, the guy at the costume shop better hurry up, because he is still chanting. And sweating. Like he was probably sweating back in the day when he and Giles would make passionate love in the back of some unfortunate rusty automobile. His ritual finishes, and Willow’s trick-or-treaters turn into actual monsters:
Oh. And Willow dies:
And suddenly Xander has a real gun, and it’s the most terrifying sentence I’ve ever typed. It also marks the beginning of a pretty ingenious plot device that wears paper thin as the series goes on.
Willow hears automatic rifle fire and realizes it’s Xander. It takes her about two seconds to work out what’s happening here, and she knows it’s bad. She tries to explain what’s going on to Xander– and accidentally phases through him. He has no memory of who she is, but Willow tells him that he’s only a soldier because he was dressed as a soldier for Halloween. A vampire in what is clearly a Halloween costume and pigtails runs toward them, and Xander aims his gun, but Willow stops him, saying that it’s still a little kid, and they just need to find Buffy to get this shit worked out. Just then, she spots Buffy, who’s wandering around in a daze. A demon and the pigtail vampire are closing in on them, and Willow asks Buffy what they should do. Buffy promptly faints. Xander uses his gun, which makes a lot of noise but doesn’t seem to fire any bullets, and the monsters are frightened away. Willow revives Buffy, and you’re gonna wish she hadn’t. Buffy has become a girl from 1775, a girl who I’m pretty sure would have been mocked for being too much of an affected swan, even back then. She also has the single worst accent you’ll ever hear on this show, including Angelus’s “Oyrish” dialect. It’s like England-flavored So. Cal. at the best of times, phone sex operator trying to sound “barely legal” at the worst.
Willow realizes that as the only person who doesn’t have amnesia, she has to be the one who fixes everything. She takes Buffy and Xander back to Buffy’s house– which Buffy doesn’t recognize– and Cordelia is running from a Big Foot or a pissed-off Ludo or something. Xander rescues Cordelia and gets her into the Summers residence, where Willow explains:
Willow: “Okay, your name is Cordelia. You’re not a cat. You’re in high school, and we’re your friends… well, sort of.”
Cordelia: “That’s nice, Willow. And you went mental when?”
Bearing in mind, this was 1998, when “mental” wasn’t as wide-spread offensive as it is now. I’m guessing if the show were filmed today, they wouldn’t have used it. But still, #14.
Cordelia name-drops Jo Jo The Dogfaced Boy, and I’m impressed that she’s so up to date on turn-of-the-century sideshow acts. She also worries that Party Town won’t give her deposit back– hey… she hasn’t turned into her costume…
Willow tells everyone to hang tight until she gets help, and she leaves Cordelia with the amnesiac Buffy and Xander. Outside, there is general mayhem in the streets, and Spike is wandering around, soaking it all in and really enjoying himself.
Back at Buffy’s house, Xander is barricading them in with furniture, while Buffy is arguing that they should leave for somewhere safer. Xander isn’t going to go anywhere, because Willow is in charge, and Willow told them to stay:
Buffy: “You would take orders from a woman? Are you feeble in some way?”
Xander: “Ma’am, in the Army we have a saying. Sit down and shut the–“
Xander is distracted by a photo of the three of them hanging out together, and realizes that Willow is right, they do have amnesia. But let’s just take a second here to point out the fact that Xander after having been turned into a hyper-masculine, stereotypical tough-ass action hero soldier, is still way, way more feminist than regular old Xander who hangs out with his two girl best friends. Really let that sink in a second.
Xander is arguing with Buffy, telling her she’s going to have to help fight, when Angel arrives, and finds that neither Buffy nor Xander know who he is.
At the library, Giles is getting a spooky feeling…
and then Willow comes through the wall…
and Giles is so startled he loses his index cards.
I love this episode so much.
Hey, I just need to point out for a second that Giles is wearing a dark colored suit instead of tweed, and it’s fairly modern in comparison to the cut/colors he usually wears. This is for a characterization reason (I assume it wasn’t accidental), which I will get into later.
Just as Cordelia fills Angel in on what’s happening in town, casa de Summers is attacked by demons. In the fight that ensues, Angel vamps out, and his face– and presumably his enormous fivehead– scare Buffy. She runs from the house and into the dangerous outside.
In the library, Willow is trying to help Giles do research, but since she’s a ghost she can’t turn pages:
Giles: “Let’s review. Um, so everybody became whatever they were masquerading as?”
Willow: “Right. Xander was a soldier, and Buffy was an eighteenth century girl.”
Giles: “And, uh, your, your costume?”
Willow: “I’m a ghost.”
Giles: “Yes, but, um… well, the ghost of what, exactly?”
Willow: “Well, this is nothing! You should see what Cordelia was wearing! A-a unitard with… cat things, like ears and stuff.”
Giles: “Good heavens, she became an actual feline?”
This conversation makes Willow remember Cordelia’s remark about Party Town. She tells Giles that everybody who changed into their costumes got them at this new place, called Ethan’s. And then Giles’s face goes like this:
Buffy is fleeing down an alley, and Xander, Angel, and Cordelia are out looking for her. Cordelia says that Buffy can take care of herself, but Angel reminds her that in her current you-are-what-you-wore state, Buffy is totally helpless. It’s a good thing he says this super loud in the middle of the street, because that’s how Spike overhears it. Now the guy who has killed two Slayers already knows that the current Slayer is completely defenseless, and he plans on finding her. Larry finds her first, and he’s turned into a pirate on account of his costume. And like pirates have a reputation for doing, Larry chases her with intent to rape.
Giles and Willow arrive at the costume shop to find a creepy light-up statue of Janos, a dual-faced deity that Ethan used in his spell. When Ethan steps out of the shadows, Giles orders Willow to leave– and he’s not fucking around. He’s super stern, and Willow takes the hint. Then we find out that Giles and Ethan know each other:
Giles: “Hello, Ethan.”
Ethan: “Hello, Ripper.”
And thus begins one of the weirdest fandom misconceptions of all time. But we’ll get to that later in the season.
In the alley, Buffy stumbles and is accosted by pirate Larry. She’s too scared to fight him off, and I would be, too, if Ice was looming over me with scurvy teeth. Xander rushes in and rescues her, beating up Larry and defending Buffy. Thus doth the script correct the egregious wrong done unto the virile Xander’s masculinity, and there is rejoicing throughout the land. Huzzah! (#6)
Buffy warns Cordelia that Angel is a vampire, and Cordelia still doesn’t believe her. She humors Buffy by telling her the truth, even though she doesn’t know it: that Angel is a good vampire, who would never hurt her.
Okay, never is kind of a strong word to use in this season.
Spike and an army of trick-or-treat ghouls are closing in, and Willow warns them to all get inside. Angel sweeps Buffy into his arms in a moment that made a lot of teenaged girls swoon, and they run to find cover.
In the costume shop, there is a very intense vibe between Giles and Ethan that compels me to seek out fanfic. The two have some major history, judging by the way Giles says he’s surprised he didn’t figure out it was Ethan by the whole “harming the innocent” thing, and the way Ethan mocks Giles for giving two shits about not hurting innocent people. You know some serious business went down when Ethan says:
Ethan: “It’s quite a little act you’ve got going here, old man.”
Giles: “It’s no act. It’s who I am.”
Ethan: “Who you are? The Watcher? Sniveling, tweed-clad guardian of the Slayer and her kin? I think not. I know who you are, Rupert, and I know what you’re capable of. [beat] But they don’t, do they?”
SCREECHING BRAKES, Y’ALL. Look at how amazing those lines of dialogue are. This is what they’re really saying:
Ethan: Hey audience, Giles is totally feeding you and the other characters a load of BS.
Giles: I am not, because I fully believe I am a changed man.
Ethan: You’re never going to be a changed man because deep down, you’re evil. The audience should know that you’re pretty dangerous, in a mysterious way I won’t explain. And I’ll insinuate that your young friends have something to fear from you.
But it doesn’t smack of exposition. It’s just good, old fashioned bad-guy dialogue, and the audience should be eating it up.
Oh hey, remember when I mentioned Giles’s clothes? The costuming choice of the dark suit hints at some inner darkness, and the modern cut gently nudges the viewer’s subconscious out of the comfort zone. This is an unfamiliar Giles, who looks like he maybe could be evil. I mean, he’s not wearing his ubiquitous tweed… do we really know this man at all? Case in point, when he tells Ethan to break the spell, and Ethan asks why he should do that, Giles responds by threatening Ethan’s life, then just starts brutalizing the dude with fight moves he should be using against Buffy in training.
No, dear reader. We do not know Giles at all.
Angel, Buffy, Cordelia, Willow, and Xander (in alphabetical order, be impressed, guys!) try to escape Spike and his demons by barricading themselves in a warehouse, but it’s no use, and they’re going to have to fight for their lives.
Speaking of beating people to death, Giles is cleaning blood off his hands and demanding Ethan tell him how to break the spell. When Ethan doesn’t deliver, Giles kicks the shit out of him.
In the warehouse, Spike is taunting Buffy before what he believes will be his easiest kill ever, while the rest of the gang try to fight off the demons. Ethan has finally had enough of getting his ass kicked by a guy who seems emotionally distant whilst performing acts of violence, and tells Giles to break the statue of Janos to end the spell. He does, just as Spike is about to feed on Buffy. All the demons turn into crying kids, and Buffy uses Spike’s confusion to deliver a quip and start punching on him the way Giles was punching on Ethan a minute ago. Speaking of Ethan, he knows when to cut and run. So does Spike. Giles turns to find Ethan missing, and Spike runs from the once-again blonde and punny Slayer.
With her amnesia gone, Buffy is free to go off into the sunset with Angel… or I guess it would be sunrise, since it’s so late already. Cordy has her butt in a knot over that, and Xander tells her she’ll never get between them. As they turn to round up the disturbed and weeping trick-or-treaters, they notice that Willow is missing.
Back on the porch where she died, Willow struggles out of her ghost costume. She doesn’t need it anymore, as this whole experience with taking charge and doing stuff has given her the confidence to bare her body to the collective male gaze… as… empowered women… do? Willow was strong and self-assured already. She knew who she was, and– Oh. Oh, the writers meant for us to believe that because she doesn’t want to wear skimpier clothing than she’s comfortable with, she’s a prude and not a Strong Female Character. Never mind about all that stuff I said before, about insights into her characterization and stuff.
One good thing comes of Willow taking off her costume, something that could have been achieved just as easily by Willow being reluctant to put on the sheet that made her die before: Oz is driving his right-side drive van (why is it right-side drive? This is California), spots her and recognizes her from the cultural insensitivity dance two episodes before. And he digs her, without realizing that they met earlier that day.
Back at Buffy’s house, where her mother is not home, Buffy and Angel are in Buffy’s room. Wait, the whole town was just overrun by demons. Why isn’t Buffy worried about her mom? Why isn’t Buffy’s mom worried about Buffy? Anyway, Angel asks Buffy why she wanted to dress up like an eighteenth century chick, and she tells him she wanted to be “a real girl” for a night. So, I’m supposed to find Buffy’s kick assitude somehow uplifting to my woman’s secret heart, but she’s not a real girl when she’s not wearing fancy dresses? Angel tells her that he didn’t like those girls, anyway, but that only validates Buffy as a “real girl” because a guy digs her for being the way she is. I’m actually developing a headache, trying to disentangle all these wrapped up contradictory themes. The important part is, Buffy and Angel make out.
The next day, Giles goes to the costume shop and finds it hastily deserted. Ethan has left him a note:
Ominous piano music plays, Giles casts a dark look to the left of the screen, and the end credits roll.
When you start to examine some of the underlying morality on display in this episode, it gets really confusing. On the one hand, Buffy wished she could be a storybook princess, and when she gets her wish, it disempowers her. So, yay for being modern girls? But on the other hand, it’s reinforcing the idea that all women need to be “strong” in order to be empowered, and suggests that a woman who maybe isn’t brave or all that physically combative is somehow doing the whole being a woman gig wrong. If she’s a Strong Female Character, she’s unhappy in love. But if she’s a simpering princess, the man of her dreams scoops her up in his arms and rescues her. Buffy can’t win.
Speaking of which, the constant pains taken by the writers to give Xander some sense of bolstered masculine pride are completely at odds with the surface layer of watered-down Girl Power! slapped over everything with a trowel. We’re meant to believe that it’s perfectly okay for Buffy to be a Strong Female Character ™, but she needs to take the feelings of the men in her life into consideration before displaying that strength to help them. She can’t rescue Xander, because it’s humiliating, but if Xander rescues Buffy, he’s empowered?
Ah, Joss-brand feminism.
Hope you had/are having/will have a safe and happy Halloween, everybody!