Written By: Carl Ellsworth
Broadcast Date: October 27 1997
On Halloween Buffy and her friends patronize an unusual costume shop where customers turn into whatever costume they are wearing.
A fun watch from start to finish, “Halloween” provides some great individual moments from each of the protagonists and introduces a new regular villain that will certainly uncover the true nature of Giles and his past.
I have been waiting for over a season to watch a Buffy Halloween episode and this is every bit as fun, spooky and memorable as I would have hoped. The premise of people becoming the character of their Halloween costume provides some good moments, most notably Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) becoming a terrified 18th-century lady who screams and swoons and the spirit of Willow (Alyson Hannigan) rising from her own body in Lara Croft-esque clothing and nonchalantly walking through walls. It also feels like the perfect way to develop the emotional storylines of the protagonists that have been brewing in the first few episodes of this season.
Xander’s (Nicholas Brendon) anxiety about not coming across as attractive and masculine, seen last time out surrounded by fraternity members, continues after he is saved from a beating by the school bully thanks to Buffy, before becoming a US soldier who scares vampires away with a gun and impresses the changed Buffy with his bravery and masculinity. Buffy’s choice for picking a period costume is to appeal to her on-off boyfriend Angel (David Boreanaz) after snooping through his history in Giles’ (Anthony Stewart Head) records; honestly this is the weakest storyline of the whole episode. Not only have we seen Buffy feeling like she is not a normal girl several times, the fact she was jealous of a desperate Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) flirting with Angel just felt off for her character.
The best narratives however centre on Willow and Giles, two characters who have been on the sidelines several times this season. Willow’s in particular feels welcome after the realisation that Xander will never see her in the way that she wants in a previous episode. That she is the one who calls the shots when the ritual leaves Buffy useless feels like a great progression for her and her concluding moments, where she casts off the ghost costume to represent her no longer wanting to hide away, finishes off a great episode for her. I am also looking forward to the eventual meeting between her and star struck band member Oz (Seth Green). If anything, I wish that she would have had a bigger hand in the outcome, but her loss is a massive gain for Giles’ character, in possibly the biggest revelation of the episode.
Ever since the first episode, viewers have only seen the nervous English librarian side of Giles – and occasionally his exasperation at how little Buffy knows and how little she tries to be the Slayer. The actual plot could be said to be a bit paint-by-numbers; the mysterious Ethan Rayne (Robin Sachs) arrives in town, prays to a Roman deity and the stone head he prays to is what turns everyone into the costumes they bought from him. Then, when Giles confronts him, the latter reveals that he knows Giles and his darker side. This is a massive curveball for the character because it has barely been referenced, but it makes complete sense. Viewers only get a tease of this other self – named “Ripper” by Ethan – in the way Giles brutally kicks and punches this man from his past. It also works that he is the one to break the curse, thus stopping Spike (James Marsters), in a more subdued appearance this episode, from finally killing the Slayer. I really hope that we see this other self develop soon, though I have the feeling that it will be something which comes out more over time.
“Halloween” is a great episode that perfectly encapsulates the layering of themes in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Even though there are some darker moments, it is definitely a fun watch and one of the best episodes of this second season so far.