Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s Halloween Episodes Were The Best, Except For One
Buffy the Vampire Slayer had two great Halloween episodes, and one truly "meh" one.
Considering it’s set in a town sitting atop the infamous Hellmouth, you’d think Buffy the Vampire Slayer would be the perfect series for some great Halloween episodes–and two out of three times you’d be right. Unfortunately, as was the case in so many other areas, in Buffy‘s penultimate season, the series only disappointed. The game-changing show’s streak of wonderful Spooky Season stories was cut short by the ho-hum of “All the Way.”
Buffy the Vampire Slayer begins its run of Halloween episodes with, well, “Halloween” early in the show’s excellent second season. One of the show’s few perfectly human recurring villains–Robin Sachs (Galaxy Quest) as the chaos-worshipping Ethan Rayne–is introduced here as the owner of a costume shop with a twist. Unknown to his customers until it’s too late, anyone who wears a costume from Ethan’s shop finds themselves transformed to whomever–or whatever–they’re dressed as.
The Buffy premise brilliantly takess the signature Halloween fantasy–that you could actually become the thing you’re dressed as–and turns it on its head. In some cases, sure, the transformations help the heroes; like the usually hapless Xander (Nicholas Brendon) who becomes a fearless soldier and Willow (Alyson Hannigan) who is protected as an unkillable ghost. But at the same time because she was dressed as a princess, the usually unstoppable Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is temporarily too useless to even be considered a sidekick.
Though he doesn’t expect the chaos, the still newish Buffy recurring bad guy Spike (James Marsters) takes advantage of the Halloween situation, rounding up all the little kiddies transformed into monsters and demons to form a new army of minions.
Buffy‘s “Halloween” is a fun, clever episode and instantly won a top spot in the fandom’s rankings, evidenced by the fact that creator Joss Whedon and co. repeatedly made callbacks to the episode’s events, usually to explain how Xander still hung on to some random military info.
You might understandably assume a show like Buffy the Vampire Slayer would give fans Halloween episodes every year but no; it was two seasons until “Fear Itself” once again celebrated the holiday. With the eponymous hero and most of the Scoobs either in college or having defected to the spinoff Angel, “Fear Itself” proved just as memorable as “Halloween” while at the same time proving much darker.
In “Fear Itself” members of a frat, along with Oz (Seth Green), unwittingly summon the fear demon Gachnar (Adam Bitterman) while setting up a sound system for the frat’s annual haunted house event. Predictably, things in the house turn a bit more literally haunted than anyone expects. While the Buffy heroes — remembering the events of “Halloween” — mostly come dressed as things that would be useful in a pinch should their costumes become real (e.g. Xander dresses as James Bond, Willow is Joan of Arc, and Oz simply wears a name tag that says “GOD”), it doesn’t help them this time around.
The episode also introduces the ongoing joke of the fear Anya (Emma Caulfield) harbors for bunnies, as well as giving fans perhaps the single most badass Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) moment ever — Giles cutting his way into the frat house with a chainsaw.
The final reveal of Gachnar as being the size of Marvel‘s Ant-Man is perfectly executed, and fitting considering the theme of fear and the weakness it reveals once it’s overcome.
“All the Way” is a regrettable end to what could’ve been a great run of Buffy Halloween episodes. Set in the wildly uneven sixth season, the episode finds Buffy’s spontaneously sprouted sister Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg) once more trying to act like a normal teenager in a town where acting like a normal teenager makes you a meal. In this case Dawn is thrilled to find out her crush Justin (Kavan Reece) is into her, but unfortunately he’s a vampire–because of course he is.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing in this Buffy episode that fills you with the sense or spirit of the season like “Halloween” or “Fear Itself.” Dawn gets in trouble, Buffy saves Dawn. It’s about as basic as Buffy episodes got.
The good news is that “All the Way” isn’t the worst episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The bad news is that it wasn’t the worst episode because there was still plenty of Season 6 and 7 left.