re: The Dark Age

I completely agree with Joelle that this episode does drag in spots. It is certainly not my favorite. But what was interesting to me about it is that I think I liked it a lot better when I was younger, and I think that the reason why is because it is really written more for teenagers than for adults. At least this is my theory about why it doesn’t work so well for me now, Joelle may feel totally different.

Maybe I'm just no longer as charmed by Giles's striped pajamas.  I'm just kidding, that is clearly not possible.

Maybe I’m just no longer as charmed by Giles’s striped pajamas.
I’m just kidding, that is clearly not possible.

This is ultimately an episode about realizing that your parents/caregivers are human beings who made mistakes in their past. Sometimes terrible mistakes, things they are still paying for, things that have impacted who they are today. But that’s not news to me at 31. I’ve known just how human and flawed my parents (and every more grown-up person than me that I have) are for a long time. The kick of discovering that when you’re a teenager, which is certainly when it most frequently happens, should not be underestimated and I am really glad he did an episode on it. But I think it just doesn’t hold the same punch when we are the adults. At least not for me.

So let’s get into this.

This is a great spot to go looking for someone. Not his home.

This is a great spot to go looking for someone. Not his home.

I have never, ever understood why Phillip goes looking for Giles at the school in the middle of the night. Or evening. It’s probably evening, we’re looking at after Halloween I suppose, so it’s getting dark early. What it certainly is not is anywhere near school hours. There’s no reason to assume he lives here and since they’re going to introduce Giles’ house in this episode, it seems particularly silly.

I have always found it especially charming that Phillip asks Deirdre if it is her, while her face is clearly dead and basically disintegrating. I mean, probably it is not her, Phillip. I’m just suggesting. What I have not found charming is the fact that he didn’t actually run instead of pounding ineffectually at a door until she slowly ambled up to him and unimpressively strangled him to death. It just seems so dumb.

Presumably this is not what Deirdre normally looked like.

Presumably this is not what Deirdre normally looked like.

I have to say that I am 100% on the side of Giles in the aerobic music battle and I don’t care if it makes me old. Whatever the fuck Buffy is listening to is TERRIBLE and my ears actually ring with appreciation when she turns it off. Why couldn’t she be listening to 90’s pop or something? That had a beat too! I do love her work-out clothes however.

Remember him?

Remember him?

I would like to say that Joelle did not mention how astonishingly dated their game of “anywhere but here” is. It cracks me up every time. I mean, Gavin Rossdale? John Cusack? These are hard 90’s picks. I love John Cusack but he is nowhere near an anywhere but here list for me these days. I never cared for Gavin Rossdale. But either way.

I do like that they all assume that Giles could never have been restless in school. It’s a good place to start it, because it is that concept of who the adult in your life is that cannot be shaken. It frustrates you, it often gets under your skin, but at the same time, there is a certainty to it that you can tell gives them comfort even as they are mocking it. It is that exact certainty that will be shaken during this episode.

I would love to know why Xander was unaware he was going to have to be in school that Saturday. I would think that was something that you would be required to alert students to in advance.

Giles makes a lot of great expressions in this moment, but this was one of my favorites.

Giles makes a lot of great expressions in this moment, but this was one of my favorites.

I adore Jenny teasing Giles about his book. I would love nothing more than to do this to David but I would never be able to keep a straight face like she does. Also, sexy fuddy duddy makes COMPLETE sense to me, for reasons I will not go into because a certain person would probably murder me when I saw them this week. I’m just saying.

As Giles is being confronted in the library about the homicide and Cordelia breezes in… I just love her obliviousness to everything. It is my favorite. I particularly love her “Why is everyone always yelling my name?” She just sounds so hurt.

So yes, it is Giles friend that is there and I think it is a funny thing that the woman

Being a homicide detective in Sunnydale must be the WORST. Mostly I'm taking note of her because she is one of the only people of color we see in this show.

Being a homicide detective in Sunnydale must be the WORST. Mostly I’m taking note of her because she is one of the only people of color we see in this show.

asks him if this friend he hasn’t seen in 20 years would “have any reason to contact him?” Instead of the much more obvious question of “so… would your friend have any reason to fly to a different continent and show up at your place of employment with no luggage or identification of any kind?” Speaking of which, how did he get to America with no identification?

Buffy is waiting for the blood delivery. It all seems kind-of silly to me. I mean, as far as vamp hijinx go, this seems fairly low key and also confusing. Do vampires who do NOT have souls even like to drink cold blood? Like it cannot taste the same, right? Why not just go eat people? Also like… I know hospitals need blood but it’s one delivery and can probably be replaced. Just don’t make a habit of it, you crazy fellows. And finally, when it comes to things that are biological in nature, don’t they keep a closer eye on them than dropping them off in a deserted back alley parking lot in the middle of the night? Oh, Sunnydale.

Awww. Sad Buffy. Door.

Awww. Sad Buffy. Door.

Worried Buffy goes to Giles house and I was so excited to see it for the first time! I love Giles house. It has very strong vibes of any number of 90’s television shows and it’s clearly on a stage and I just love it. I love his door. I love all of it. Anyway. Poor Giles, all muddled up and not okay and it’s freaking Buffy out because his entire job is to be okay and be predictable.

More crazy questions about how corpses and British people travel. It really is a pretty gaping plot hole. Also, I know we don’t see the tattoo on Giles again, but does he ever roll up his sleeves again? I mean, seriously, I’m not sure.

That is SUPER high up his arm...

That is SUPER high up his arm…

So Buffy goes to school the next morning to sound the alarm because something is wrong with Giles. While yes, I understand drinking alone is fairly low on the scale of things he could be doing, as a kid this would have sent me into a spiral of absolute panic. It screams of an adult who is having a breakdown or who cannot deal with what is happening to them. It is a situation of possibly having to take care of an adult instead of having them do the taking care of that they are supposed to do and that is the most profoundly frightening thing ever. It makes sense to me that they are all freaked out by that possibility. To be fair, it really is out of character as far as anything they’ve ever seen of him.

I am personally thrilled to see his face. Awwww. <3

I am personally thrilled to see his face. Awwww. ❤

IS it weird that Buffy punches Ethan in the face immediately? Because I love Ethan as a villain a lot and I love his face but he really did sell them costumes that almost got all of them killed and also he just greeted her by trying to throw a bookcase on her head. Punching him in the face seems like the exact thing that I would assume Buffy would do, to be honest.

I don’t have a lot to say about much of the middle goings on here, except that sometimes I feel like the young dialogue is heightened in this episode. I particularly took note of Cordelia’s “I’m going to be in therapy till I’m 30,” which now seems like such a high school thing to say. Who could possibly think beyond 30? I say from 31.

So whatever. Zombie Phillip inexplicably breaks out of the book cage, knocking

I just love everything about this picture.

I just love everything about this picture.

Jenny unconscious and sealing her fate, and temporarily the fate of her and Giles’ relationship. I do assume they reinforced the book cage when keeping a werewolf in there? Of course, they also kept crazy strong hyena possessed Xander in there and he couldn’t break out. Maybe Zombie Phillip was much more cunning than we gave him credit for. Or… let’s be honest. This villain is just really poorly constructed. Like Joelle said. None of it makes much sense, it’s pointless to break your brain on the specifics.

So pretty. I really just dig her whole look.

So pretty. I really just dig her whole look.

I do think Jenny looks extremely pretty in this episode before she sprouts strange blue gem things all over her head area. Like she just has a lot going on that I appreciate. And while I in theory appreciate the general idea of Giles not being willing to “take advantage” of a situation, that actually… does not make a lot of sense to me even from this perspective, to be honest? And in fact I am kind-of frustrated by it. Like before he knew she was a demon, obviously. Clearly it ended up being the right call, but if she had not been possessed by crazed demonic energy, I don’t actually see anything about this situation that makes her incapable of making an adult decision to want to have sex. She’s not drunk, she’s not incapacitated. She’s had a bad and frightening day, but you can still make decisions with that. As a grown-up. Now, if this is GILES saying that he does not feel comfortable with this being their first time, that is totally different. And in truth, I think this has almost nothing to do with Jenny at all and has everything to do with what Joelle was saying about Giles being frightened of his own moral compass, but I think this is actually an example of him going overboard and I find it frustrating. Again, because of what we know, it ends up being the right call and it’s good that they don’t have sex, obviously, but sans demon I think it would have been kind-of shitty to make his issues about her.

I would also like to know if in olden days the operator could really tell you that a phone was out of order when someone broke the cord. That never made any sense to me. Surely it would just ring, right? Is there something I’m missing there?

So whatever, big drama, big demon, running away and then Buffy having to deal

So hard. :(

So hard. 😦

with a breaking down Giles. I think her line here about “Don’t be sorry, be Giles!” is probably the most telling line. Watching the people who are supposed to be the grown-ups have the freak outs and break downs and have to take care of them is a lot to take for any teenager. Giles is her strong place and demons she can handle, but Giles as a blubbering mess on the floor is not something she actually wants to deal with.

I had a hard time finding a picture that showed it but I really think it's the same one.

I had a hard time finding a picture that showed it but I really think it’s the same one.

So she goes running off to rescue Ethan and she still does not really realize how much of a glorious and delightful asshole Ethan is. God, I love him so much. I am so sad at how few episodes he appears in. Also, I would like to know how he got the table that they used in the marionette episode to tie Buffy up on. Like Joelle, I’m more than a little confused why Giles and Ethan both didn’t just have their tattoos removed ages ago? I mean, I know they thought they were rid of the demon but surely better safe than sorry? Also, has anyone noticed the rather huge plot hole where they never explain why they weren’t rid of the demon? Like did Deirdre or whoever the other one was summon it again for old time’s sake, or did it magically regain power somehow or…? This is never addressed at all and it doesn’t make sense. Sigh.

So you know. Whatever. Angel has an interior demon battle, which mostly consists of pretty dreadful CGI. Ethan runs away, like he does. I know Buffy wanted to punch him, but he obviously had to run away because like… there was nothing else plot-wise they could have done with him. They can’t exactly put him in jail at this point. Dark Giles might kill him but I think we’ve got some time to get to that. Also, this means he’ll be back, which is the best. Hooray!

I would like to only note in closing to this long and rambling thing that if Buffy

There is no way that the tattoo is not clearly obvious in this shirt.

There is no way that the tattoo is not clearly obvious in this shirt.

would like to hide her tattoo from her mother, perhaps she might consider wearing a shirt that does not expose her entire upper back? I think it is a cute shirt, but perhaps a cardigan could be considered until she convinces whoever she is going to convince to do a tattoo removal without parental consent.

And finally, I don’t know how I feel about Jenny breaking up with Giles. I feel like they decided she was going to have secrets about Angel later (maybe not, but it always felt written in suddenly to me) so it’s hard to read it that way. And also, I have no real concept of how she experienced the possession or if she has much experience with trauma that might have made it more difficult for her or… anything really. Like we don’t actually know much of anything about Jenny for as much as I enjoy her. I can think of a number of reasons I might need a break after something like that. I don’t really hold it against her, but I wish I understood more of her perspective.

Tentative re-bonding. Growing up. <3

Tentative re-bonding. Growing up. ❤

In all, I feel like this show sets up a lot of themes that will in some ways be explored better in next season’s episode Band Candy? That will have these same ideas of kids being absolutely terrified by the adults in their lives being people with pasts that are unacceptable and hard to cope with (and being able to see them in full color, which is the worst nightmare), as well as having to take care of them instead of being taken care of. It will also be a more fun episode. AND it will have Ethan. I’m just saying. This feels a little like a practice run in some ways.


The Dark Age

It’s time for “The Dark Age”! I’ll admit that on this rewatch, I found that this episode dragged a little. I mean, I have watched this season a LOT, so it makes sense that some of the episodes may not thrill me to pieces. However, as you can see, I wrote quite a bit for this episode, and that’s because it’s so important. We finally learn more about Giles’ past and how he came to be the stuffy, rule-following Watcher that he is, and Buffy grows closer to him because of it, and my love for Daddy Giles could move mountains. So let’s get started.

“The Dark Age” opens with a man we’ve never seen before (if you’re playing “Dead or Evil” at home, yup, he’s about to


be really dead). He’s looking for Giles, helped along by a cranky janitor. BUT! Before he can reach the library door, zombie! Is it a sign of 2015 that the sight of a zombie creature from 1998 instills no fear in me? Especially one that says “Philip…” all menacing-like. Philip helpfully falls down in fear, and then bangs on the library door for help, but Buffy is aerobicizing so loudly (LOL) inside that she and Giles can’t hear him. So yeah, predictably, zombie chokes him to death and then (maybe less predictably) dissolves into a pretty aquamarine gel next to his dead body.

It’s almost sweet.

In the very next scene, Giles awakens from a dream about a Kid Rock castoff yelling and strange tattoos. Weird, but we’ll get to that.

Buffy and Willow are at school that same morning, playing “Anywhere But Here,” which is a truly adorable moment.

I love it so much.

The gang wonders if Giles has ever played such a game; Buffy and Xander think not, that Giles probably lived for school. It’s interesting to me that Willow is the only one who thinks Giles probably got restless as a kid–reflective of her own restlessness, perhaps, and eventual rebellion from her current “good girl” self.

Giles tells Buffy that they must stop a gang of vampires from mugging a medical transport for blood this evening, because those vamps sure are pesky. Giles is clearly distracted in this scene, something that goes unnoticed by the Scoobies. Jenny appears, all cute-like, and we learn that Willow will be helping her out on Saturday tutor some kids who have fallen behind in her class (Xander and Cordelia).

They look almost ashamed here of their heavy petting in the school hallway.

Giles and Jenny then have a more private conversation–this episode is, after all, primarily about Giles. Jenny pretends to have destroyed a book she borrowed from him just to tease him and get him worked up. It works. Part of what’s great about this episode is how it contrasts who Giles was as a young man to who he is now. His past, which is about to be revealed to us, shines light on why he is a no-nonsense rule follower now. His unshakable desire to do the right thing (study hard, train Buffy, keep a schedule, take care of his possessions) is obviously because of how reckless he used to be. People got hurt (and are continuing to get hurt, RIP Philip) because of his past actions. He never wants that to happen again, so he went as far as possible in the opposite direction. Luckily, Buffy’s influence will eventually help him relax a little on authoritative rules and instead do what’s right according to his own moral code, but he’s not quite there yet. At this point, I don’t think he trusts his own moral code.

Anyway, Jenny calls him a “sexy fuddy-duddy” in this scene, which will always be bizarre. Whatever, they’re cute. Then she tells him she wants to “stay in” this weekend to “make him squirm.” OKAY YOU GUYS THERE ARE CHILDREN MILLING ABOUT.

The most casual murder investigation ever.

Giles enters the library to find police officers waiting. They tell him there was a homicide outside of the library last night, with nothing on the body except for a slip of paper with Giles’ name and address on it. (I’m assuming they mean the school’s address? Weird. He doesn’t live there, police officers!) Also, in any other universe, school would be closed pending a homicide investigation on campus, but this is Sunnydale, after all. Cordelia comes into the library, needing a book, totally and hilariously oblivious to Giles’ awkward situation. I like this scene because it’s clearly a nightmare for Giles: a direct confrontation of his old life (homicide) with his new (helping silly high-schoolers find books).

Giles identifies Philip’s body at the morgue. The camera zooms in on Philip’s weird tattoo, accompanied by ominous music.

How ominous! How bruised! How did his body get so bruised, anyway? I mean, ignore this maybe, I know next to nothing about the bodies of people choked to death by demonic zombies.

Then we cut to Buffy at nighttime, alone near the hospital, effectively ditched by Giles and forced to intercept the blood-stealing vampires alone. It turns out some vamps have disguised themselves as doctors–how they managed that successfully, I have no clue. Little scamps. Angel appears out of the darkness to help her, which is good since she is very outnumbered. When she asks, “How did you know about this?” and he says, “It’s delivery day, everybody knows about this,” I can’t help but laugh. Are we forgetting the time in S1 that Angel had bags of human blood in his fridge? He knows about it because he used to maybe participate in it, ha! I don’t know if the writers are purposely alluding to that–probably not. I think it’s just a continuity error, but it’s funny to me anyway.

Scruffy Daddy Giles.

Buffy goes to Giles’ house to confront him about ditching her. He’s even more noticeably distracted (and unshaven and messy and drunk–poor Daddy Giles). Buffy definitely notices his weird behavior now. Giles sends her away, and inside, he’s making phone calls, basically going through a list of names and crossing them out as he finds out they’ve died. Then he rolls up his sleeve and we see that he has the same strange tattoo that Philip had–never seen at all before or after this episode, by the way.

And then Philip’s body is reanimated in the morgue and he stuffs the morgue employee into the…dead-people drawer. This kind of thing must happen a lot in morgues near Sunnydale, it’s not a job I would want. This also begs the question: are all of Giles’ old friends currently in America? It seems unlikely, though not impossible, I suppose. But if not, did a reanimated corpse (either Diedre’s or the other guy on the list) book an international flight and come to California? I HOPE SO because that’s amazing.

The next day is Saturday, and Willow, Xander, and Cordelia are at school with Jenny for the computer

This doesn’t really capture it, but Willow looks SO EXCITED to see Buffy in the episode. It’s cute.

class. I think it’s weird that Jenny’s holding a Saturday class, with an assistant, just for two students. But what do I know? Buffy appears, which leads to the wonderful line:

JENNY: The first thing we’re gonna do is–Buffy.
XANDER: Huh? Did I fall asleep already?

Buffy explains that Giles is being weird. She looks very beautiful in this scene, by the way. I love how FREAKED OUT everyone gets by the notion of an adult man drinking alone inside his home on a Friday night. It’s like, surely in the whole scheme of things Giles could have been doing, that’s pretty tame, right? Regardless, Cordelia reveals that Giles had been talking to the police the day before about a homicide, and Buffy rushes off to contact him. I suppose she goes to the library in order to…use the phone? Surely there are other phones on campus? Anyway, she finds Ethan Rayne in the library, sneaking around as he tends to do. (WHY do none of these people try to find Giles at his actual home? He doesn’t live in the library, guys.) Buffy recognizes him and, just as quickly, punches him in the face, which seems a bit premature to me but hey, I’m not a Slayer.

She seriously does look SO pretty for most of this episode.

Ethan explains that he and Giles go way back, and it cuts to Giles being woken up from a nap on his desk (poor thing) by Buffy’s phone call. She asks him about the Mark of Eyghon. When Giles finds out she’s with Ethan, he freaks–and just then, Dead Philip bursts in through a window and Buffy starts fighting him. These zombie types sure have a keen sense of direction.

The Scoobies and Jenny come into the library, and Cordelia manages to keep Ethan from getting away when Xander fails to, which is funny. Buffy locks Philip in the book cage, which is one of many times it’ll come in handy. Giles arrives. He and Ethan have a very tense discussion; Giles tells Ethan that he’s put people he cares about in danger by staying in Sunnydale, and Ethan points out that Giles should have left town, too. He makes a good point: Giles’ choice to stay in Sunnydale and try to figure things out by himself was probably not the wises move. However, it comes down to the fact that Giles is in denial about his past coming to get him. As I said, his past and present are colliding and he’s not coping with it well. Leaving town would be admitting, in a way, that his past finally caught up to him and he can’t maintain his current life, which is not something he’s willing to do.

Someone really should have locked that cage. Also, LOL Jenny!

Just then, Philip quite easily breaks out of the cage–weird, since they will eventually keep a werewolf in that cage once a month for nearly two years without such an incident, though I suppose they might reinforce the lock before that. Buffy knocks him down and he dissolves into the same blue goo as before. It touches Jenny, and then she gets all flashy-eyed and possessed, though no one notices.

Ethan gets away, and Buffy argues with Giles, wanting to know what’s going on. Giles tells her it’s not her battle. He gets all beady-eyed with anger in this scene. The dude is panicking. He pulls the “I’m your Watcher” card, telling her to stay out of his private situation, then leaves with Jenny, who’s nursing a head injury from the cage door and a demonic possession from the goo. Buffy, of course, doesn’t listen and gives the Scoobies jobs to do. I love how Willow tells Buffy that “mark of Eyghon” probably won’t be on the internet and instead they should consult books. Oh, the 90s, you were such a different time. I also love how Buffy doesn’t initially give a job to Cordelia, who protests, “I care about Giles!” Cordy, you big softy, you.

Back at Giles’ house, Jenny goes all homicidal because of the zombie goo…look, the mysticism behind this particular brand of zombies is very hazy and confusing, all right? The Scoobies do find out more about the demon Eyghon: it can only possess an “unconscious host,” which includes dead people, but disintegrates dead people after a while and must jump to the next unconscious or dead person. I guess it worked out pretty conveniently, then, this whole episode. I still have about a hundred more questions about this, but I’ll leave it for now.

This is the look of a desperate man who doesn’t yet know his girlfriend is possessed by the demon he used to summon as a kid. Oh, Giles.

Meanwhile, Jenny is cutting the phone line, which Buffy discovers by calling an operator. Different and delightful times, remember? Giles is refusing to sex Jenny up because he feels he would be taking advantage–again, highlighting how focused he is on doing the right thing. Eyghon-Jenny calls him out on this, mocking him for being too weak to handle…it. Meaning Eyghon. Then Jenny’s face gets all creepy and her voice is manly and she beats Giles up. Buffy arrives in the nick of time and they fight. Eyghon-Jenny bursts through a window (Eyghon really likes doing that, doesn’t he?) and Giles. Is. A. Wreck. Ugh, he makes my heart hurt in this scene. He’s basically babbling and useless. Buffy tells him to “be Giles!” After all, this is what they do, they fight monsters and they win. Giles reveals that it’s different this time because he created this monster while he studied history and the occult at Oxford. I love that he studied history and the occult at Oxford.

Buffy is disappoint.

We also find out that Baby Giles rebelled, in part, because he caved to the “overwhelming pressure of his destiny.” I’ve always enjoyed this connection to Buffy and took this scene to mean that Giles knew he’d be a Watcher and was trained for it, much like Buffy trains as the Slayer. Giles tells her that he and his friends used to summon Eyghon to get high, until one of their friends got killed during the process. This, then, was Giles’ turning point from rejecting his destiny and running from responsibility to following every rule.

Buffy goes off, alone, to handle the problem and before she goes, Giles apologizes to her. Noooo Daddy Giles! His face! It’s so sad! This–the girl he’s supposed to protect and teach, being forced to clean up after his past–is pretty hard for him to endure. His girlfriend is in immediate danger and might die, his protegee is disappointed in him, things are looking pretty glum in Giles Land.

Buffy finds Ethan in the costume shop. This scene is pretty whatever. He tattoos the mark of Eyghon onto her

This does not look like a sterile tattoo environment to me.

back (again, which we never see again after this episode, though at the end of this she does mention needing to get it removed) in order to trick Eyghon into going after her instead of him because the mark’s like a homing beacon. (Why did none of the others simply get the mark removed, then? Weird.) Blah, blah, we know Buffy’s gonna kick ass somehow. I do like this exchange, though (emphasis mine):

ETHAN: How does Ripper inspire such goodness?
BUFFY: Because he’s Giles.

Here, Buffy outright rejects Giles’ old identity in favor of the identity she knows, the one that’s good and responsible and moral. She might be disappointed to learn about Giles’ past, but she still has faith in his goodness. Ahh my little heart can’t take it.

Back at the library, Willow yells at Xander and Cordy to stop bickering, which I love because she’s so cute. Then Willow figures out that they can lure the demon into Angel, who can then–fight it off? I don’t know, this seems like a HUGE shot in the dark that could have easily backfired, but whatever.

Eyghon-Jenny attacks Buffy in the costume shop. Giles arrives and offers himself to Eyghon, which is such a quick

This is how Angel’s demon fights Zombie Demon. All right.

moment, but really means that Giles is willing to die to save Jenny and the others (Daddy Giiilllleeesss!). Angel bursts in, chokes Eyghon-Jenny until Eyghon freaks and leaps out of her body and into his. The plan works, and Angel defeats Eyghon somehow, because, as he explains, “I’ve had a demon inside me for a couple hundred years, just waiting for a good fight.” Look, none of this makes much sense to me at all, okay, but let’s go with it.

At the end of the episode, Giles and Jenny sort of break up. Jenny’s freaked out. I get it, but this has always kind of annoyed me, based on Jenny’s secret “I know things about Angel that I’m not telling” plan. Like, I don’t know. You’re involved in dangerous shit, you’re aware of it, so why do you have to act all holier than thou about it? Meh.

Anyway, just before this scene, the Scoobies are talking on campus again, but this time, about how much pressure

And all is forgiven. Oh, my heart.

Giles is under. Willow says, “I don’t know how Giles does it,” and Buffy responds, “I don’t think he has a choice.” Again, connecting his path to hers. Even if he wasn’t destined by his familial line to be a Watcher (which is ambiguous), his actions now will always be a result of his actions in the past. He can never escape what he’s done; he can only make amends. Buffy and the gang recognize this and, I think, have a new appreciation of Giles because of it. Buffy certainly does, as illustrated by her lovely chat with Giles in the last scene. She sees him as a well-rounded person now who shares something important in common with her. So while this episode is kind of…whatever. It’s not my favorite, it’s not terrible. But it is super important for the storyline, for Buffy and Giles’ relationship, and for the series as a whole. It’s the first time Buffy has had to deal with one of Giles’ mistakes. It humanizes him, and it makes their bond grow even deeper.

Re: Lie to Me

Like B, I love this episode a lot. I like it more with every re-watch, I think–it’s one of those kinds of episodes that never gets old or rings untrue. I think a huge part of that is the dialogue, which I mention several times throughout this post. The dialogue in “Lie to Me” is ~on point. But it’s also great because it encapsulates what it means to grow up so well, as B discussed in her post.

This boy is much, much braver than me.

And it opens with Drusilla about to eat a little boy with a negligent mother. Those damn freerange parents, amirite. Oh, Dru. Crazy Dru. I very much admire the resolve of this little boy, because if some creepy, crazy lady dressed in white approached me on a playground at night to sing a menacing nursery rhyme and ask “What will your mommy say when they find your body?” I would NOT be so brazen as to say, “I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.” No, I would probably just weep. I also have always enjoyed how Angel instructs him to RUN HOME, like that’s the safest option. Escort him maybe, Angel? He’s like four.

In any case. Jumping ahead, I completely love class scenes in BtVS. I’ve mentioned this before, but such scenes have helped me out more than once in actual school. Aside from that, I also love how Buffy doesn’t think Dru is a vampire. I mean…what exactly about Dru’s outfit suggested she wasn’t completely a vampire? It seems like Buffy forgets that Angel is a vampire himself, and that he might have, you know, made a few vamp acquaintances over the centuries.

Dark image – but yeah, this pretty much screams “vampire” to me.

I love Jenny and Giles, I love Buffy around Ford, and I love the scene at the Bronze. The dialogue here is just great and Buffy-esque and even though Xander is still being a whiny baby, his “you’re not wrong” comments to Ford make me smile, not wince. (Also, he says “Once more with tension” and it makes me laugh.)

I do enjoy that this episode is all about secrets. Sometimes they’re fun (like when Jenny won’t tell Giles what their date is going to be), sometimes they’re literally harmless but still hurt feelings (like Angel not being upfront about Dru), and sometimes they’re deadly (Ford’s whole deal). This episode is about secrets, and it’s about lies (shocker, given the title, right?). Almost everyone on screen in this episode tells a lie of some degree, which I noticed for the first time on this watch-through. Some of the lies are so normal to us as the viewers (Xander not telling Ford who Angel really is, for instance) that they don’t even really register. I think that’s deliberate on the part of the writers.

Can I just give another shout out to the dialogue in this episode? Every time Willow and Buffy speak, I just love it okay. Just love it.

Also, I will never tire of Willow’s giant slippers.

Ford’s lies are the most in-focus, of course, because they have the biggest consequences. He not only lies to Buffy and the gang, but he lies to his lame-o vampire cult followers, all because he’s young and he’s dying and he doesn’t want to die. Which is a heart-wrenching reason to lie, sure…but doesn’t excuse, y’know, mass murder. Especially

Oh, Chantarelle. Not only will your character get better, but so will your hair.

when it’s all so NEEDLESS. I think that’s what really gets me about Ford. He doesn’t need to kill everyone in this club, does he? Can’t he just…not involve them? Unless they somehow got him touch with the vampire world, but I highly doubt that, based on how clueless they all are.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but when I watch BtVS with people who have never seen it, I like to play the “Dead or Evil” game. Basically, whenever there’s a new character, you have to guess right away if they’re going to die or if they’re evil (or a combination thereof). A character’s being evil usually leads to them dying, after all, but bonus points are awarded for specificity. I’ll never forget the time a friend of mine predicted that Forest from Season 4 was “evil, then dead, then more evil” which is…pretty spot-on. ANYWAY, I love Ford for this reason: he’s not quite evil, but his actions are, and they’re unforgivable in that way. The lovely conversation between Giles and Buffy at the end of this episode highlights this nicely. You CAN’T always tell if someone’s evil. Buffy knows this, but is just beginning to learn it.

Also, side note, am I the only one who doubts Ford would be able to bargain with a vampire to steal a book and lead him to Spike’s lair? Seems to me the vamp would either physically defeat him, or pretend to go along with it but…not. Anyway.

I love the scene with Angel and Willow in her bedroom, too much makeup aside. I do want to know more about how he “didn’t use to be” a jealous person. I honestly can’t remember if we learn more about that 100 years he spent with a soul before he met Buffy, eating rats and whatnot, with the show Angel–I’ll be the first to admit I’m not as well-versed with that show, as I’m sure I’ll get into more once we start watching it. But still, in ONE HUNDRED YEARS, he didn’t have sex with anyone? Date? Hang out with people? Form any kind of relationship, friendship or otherwise? (Because I doubt this jealousy thing SPRUNG OUT OF NOWHERE all of a sudden.) That seems crazy to me. Silly brooding Angel.

the guilt is palpable

Also, this scene leads to guilty Willow, which is my favorite Willow. I desperately want to see her overly caffeinated now. My favorite silly moment of the episode definitely comes when Angel, Xander, and Willow discover the vampire fan club, Angel starts talking about how these people know nothing about real vampires, and a guy wearing his exact outfit walks by. Loooool forever.

When Buffy finally confronts Angel about Drusilla, his line about some lies being necessary is really interesting to me. Part of Buffy’s maturation (and, truthfully, part of ALL of our maturation) is figuring this balance out. Separating the necessary lies from the hurtful ones. Determining who is lying to protect us and who is lying to hurt us. And some lies, of course, are just selfish. I don’t know that Angel’s lies in this episode weren’t simply the latter. He’s ashamed of what he did to Drusilla, that’s true, but arguably the vampire Slayer deserves to know everything possible about the big vampires in town. Him holding out on her isn’t fair.

Buffy’s confrontation with Ford at the climax of the episode is great and emotional in every way, and of course leads to this beautiful moment:

That’s Buffy’s whole deal, isn’t it? It’s definitely what has always spoken to me the most in this episode. Buffy doesn’t have good choices all the time. In fact, many of the choices she must make as the Slayer are unfair, painful, or seemingly impossible to make. She has to make them, though…and if that’s not a powerful metaphor for adulthood, I don’t know what is.

Lie to Me

Buffy has many formative episodes for me, but in all honesty this is probably one of the first. I am totally cool with saying that I still cry through large portions of it. This is one of the first episodes to look at the wrenching and horrible pain of growing up and finding out that life is full of choices that you don’t want to make, that maybe you should never have to make, and having to make them anyway. There are a lot of wonderful things about growing up, and I’d never go back. But those adolescent years in particular of realizing just how complex and painful life was actually going to be… it was not a fun time.

This image is very strong in that it somehow talks about both childhood and DEATH at the same time.

This image is very strong in that it somehow talks about both childhood and DEATH at the same time.

Not that this episode has no fun in it! Because it totally does. But that is maybe not the key point. We start out with a playground. Because Joss is not shy about hitting home symbolism and to start with a playground and end with a graveyard is pretty damn symbolic, I suspect. In this playground is a little boy whose parents clearly hate him or are incapacitated by severe addiction problems. Seriously, who leaves their small child alone at night in Sunnydale? Like I am not a fan of helicopter parenting, but people drop like flies in this town.

He is approached by Druscilla. She is appropriately creepy and delightful. She tells him about how her mother used to sing to her and wonders what song his mother will sing over his dead body. I love how he responds to that by saying “I’m not supposed to talk to strangers,” which would have been a completely reasonable response earlier in the conversation, but at the point where the crazy lady is talking about your dead body may not quite be high enough on the panic level.

But just before he is about to be turned into a meal, Angel jumps in to save him. He tells him to “run home” which did not necessarily seem to be the way to go to me? Like I get that he has saved him from immediate danger but we know there are plenty of beasties and monsters on the streets of Sunnydale, and who knows how far his home is! Although… more on that later.

In the meantime, Angel has a weird and intimate conversation with Dru, seemingly just so that Buffy can see them from the rooftop and get hurt and jealous and upset and not ask him about it directly because that is a thing that a grown-up person

I am actually not always convinced that his face makes another expression.

I am actually not always convinced that his face makes another expression.

would do and Buffy has just not quite made it there yet. I feel like the way David Boreanez plays this scene is really weird because it’s almost played as sexual tension? Which makes less sense for Angel to have with Dru. Like I know at one point he did have… something with her and that when he reverts to Angelus he seems to be all down with that, but as Angel I would think his primary feelings would be more of guilt. It makes sense that Spike is so crazy attracted to her because he seems to be attracted to her crazy. But Angel would not be, and without that, she really is just kind-of bonkers. Like I love her with all of my heart but she is really not all there. Anyway. Whatever. Dru tells him he’s in love with Buffy and whispers sweet nothings, while Buffy feels betrayed on a rooftop into the credits.

Look at their cute flirting faces. Awwww.

Look at their cute flirting faces. Awwww.

When we jump back in, we are at school and Jeny is tormenting Giles with the date she won’t tell him about. This date will later prove to be monster trucks. I love that this happened but I refuse to believe that Jeny, who is clearly a very intelligent woman, could ever have believed that Giles might have been into monster trucks. So I choose to think she just enjoyed the idea of seeing him all freaked out about it. Which, to be fair, does sound like a lot of fun. I will also say as a sidenote that the only times I can remember seeing this storyline in the past, of someone refusing to tell the other person where they were going on a date, the person worrying, even asking what they would wear either seriously or a way to get an answer, the genders were always swapped. I don’t know if that has always been true but I feel like generally the man is assumed to be taking the woman somewhere so I certainly think it is often true. So that’s just a note.

Buffy is mopey and sad and generally not super responsive. Which, to his credit, Giles notices. I don’t know if this is supposed to be him trying harder to look out for her since Reptile Boy but maybe? Either way, he says maybe she should take the night off and maybe she should go spend time with Angel. It is weird to me to remember that at some point Giles encouraged their relationship. But Buffy gets even more mopey about that and wanders away.

This is not exactly subtle, you two.

This is not exactly subtle, you two.

Note passing between Willow and Buffy about all of the lowdown, while Cordelia explains her deep and amazing thoughts on Marie Antoinette. I am always fascinated by the passing notes in a class where maybe you will get caught and in trouble thing. Incidentally, if that is a risk, maybe they shouldn’t be writing “vampire?” on one of them. But either way. I have only ever passed notes in church or in college classes, when it is more writing in notebooks and sliding them back and forth. No real danger.

As they wander out of class and Xander is stupid and they make plans for that night, here is Ford! I love Ford. I love his little 90’s gold hoop earring. Buffy talks about her schoolgirl crush on him (it is easy to see that he was probably a very cute kid) and how she used to listen to “I Touch Myself” while thinking about him in fifth grade. Before getting very awkward. I definitely did not know that song as a kid but this whole thing amused me, especially Willow only just figuring out what it was about. It’s a silly thing but I actually remember moments like that in high school (and sometimes later)? Of like… suddenly realizing something was dirty and being like OMG!

Look at the tiny little hoop! I knew so many guys who had this.

Look at the tiny little hoop! I knew so many guys who had this.

In The Bronze, Buffy asks Angel kind of but not really what he was up to last night and he lies and says nothing much, just reading and brooding silently and alone like always. Buffy is so overwhelmed by this that she basically drags Ford out the door in front of him so they can go for a walk. Willow adorably tries to get Angel to socialize, unsuccessfully, obviously.

“Whating a what?”
One of my favorite lines.

As they’re walking, Buffy hears noise and asks Ford to go get her purse. He does not and instead goes around the corner to see her killing a vampire at which point he tells her that surprise! He’s totally known she was the Slayer all along, he figured it out right before she left L.A. but never had a chance to tell her. I’m interested in how he would have figured that out, like were there mystical texts he found or something? I mean, I get how he could have found out there were vampires, Slayer just seems more specific.

Buffy is relieved to have a person to talk to, they proceed to apparently walk all over Sunnydale in one night. The geography is Sunnydale is always in flux. Later I think they’ll say that there are 7 cemeteries, right now there is just the one. There is a college that I think just manifests when Buffy needs to go there. So right now it is a super tiny town that maybe just grows really fast? So maybe that little boy really could have just run home really quickly. Anyway.

Also Angel shows up at Willow’s house to ask her to use her magic webbernet skills

Seriously. There is SO MUCH MAKE-UP ON THIS FACE.

Seriously. There is SO MUCH MAKE-UP ON THIS FACE.

to research Ford. He is wearing a lot of make-up in this scene. Like a lot. He goes on a little bit about how he didn’t used to get jealous, he just used to sit around and brood all the time and then there was Buffy and that made everything different but also he totally has a sixth sense about people and he knows Ford is bad news. He is not in the school system so that seems probable.

And in point of fact he is bad news, because he is part of a vampire cult. I love the vampire cult. They all dress in ridiculous costumes and have silly movies playing presumably 24/7 and also Chantarelle is there. Chantarelle has a very small part in this but she will come back. She has one more cult in her future and after that she is going to become amazing. She was never in Angel enough. Still, it was exciting to see her. It is clear Ford is up to devious things.

Willow is extremely nervous about not telling Buffy that she is researching Ford. She acts exactly as she has every single other time she has ever lied about anything. Still, this does not seem to tip off Buffy. Which is a bit confusing. Perhaps she is distracted by Ford.

This sweater is... a thing. You can't tell but she is also wearing yellow tights.

This sweater is… a thing. You can’t tell but she is also wearing yellow tights.

Ford, using a vampire’s directions, is able to find Spike’s lair. Spike is not thrilled to see him. Ford begs him to speak in movie-talk. That is all Ford wants, really. He has a very specific concept of himself and his story in his head and it seems important to him that it play out in that way, because even being a villain has rules. Some villains are better than others. It’s interesting, I’ve always liked Neil Gaiman’s line about how “no one is a villain in their own story.” I think that is typically true. But I also think that what Ford does here is a way to feel better about his actions by making that his place. If he IS a villain, than he is not making this really pretty awful choice, it’s just who he is. It’s just his place in a story. We can all tell ourselves pretty amazing stories when we need to.

Buffy is devastated when she sees Druscilla’s picture in a book and realizes that’s who she saw with Angel. I am not convinced she could recognize Dru from that distance but sure, whatever. Also Ford is lying to her, because the vampire he said was dead has stolen a book from the library. Buffy’s problems with trust are always pretty out there in the open. This hits her where it hurts.

She looks so pretty and it's just such an interesting shot.

She looks so pretty and it’s just such an interesting shot.

And so that night, when Angel comes to see her, immediately opens badly with it being about Ford and about how Willow and Xander were also in on this whole thing, she is betrayed and hurt and angry. I love the way they film her in this scene. They’ve been filming her very soft and very innocent this season and the shots here really heighten that. Dressed in white, mostly her face, she looks helpless and hurt and vulnerable. She looks like she’s going to be crushed.

Angel talks about the idea that some lies are necessary, that learning that is part of living long enough. He asks her if she loves him, and she finally says she does love him but she is not sure if she trusts him. I hated that line when I was younger, I thought it was not possible to love someone without trusting them. I have a more holistic view of relationships now. Certainly it doesn’t seem healthy to do that, but I wouldn’t say impossible. So he tells her about Druscilla and she is broken up, another horrific thing to forgive and get past. Everything she trusted seems to be falling apart. But it’s going to get worse.

When she sees Ford the next morning, she once again looks very beautiful but she is wearing black. When she goes down into the basement, she’ll be wearing a white coat over her black shirt. I don’t know if this was intentional or not, but in an episode that highlights the idea of black hats and white hats, I have to assume it’s possible.

Chantarelle because I love her. You are going to be SO MUCH COOLER someday, hun. Also, you will wear a lot less make-up.

Chantarelle because I love her. You are going to be SO MUCH COOLER someday, hun. Also, you will wear a lot less make-up.

It’s that afternoon that she finds his hideout and he locks them all into the basement. She begs them to come to their senses. Chantarelle is the only one who really stands out here. She’s so far from where she’ll be. She’s so genuine and so anxious. Who knows what she came from that made her think she needed this, but chances are it is the same thing that will lead her into Reverend Sunshine’s cult next. She has some things to work through.

And then there is Buffy’s conversation with Ford. The rest of the people really should be able to hear them but we’ll ignore that. Ford tells Buffy what he’s really been waiting to reveal all along. That he has cancer, that he’s dying. He says he does not need to justify himself to her but that is all he’s trying to do. Buffy is heartbroken, you can see her take it almost as a physical hit. But she gathers and says the True Thing. “You don’t have a good choice, but you have a choice.”

Say what you want about SMG's acting, but she makes devastated face SO WELL.

Say what you want about SMG’s acting, but she makes devastated face SO WELL.

He will not make the right choice. In the end Buffy will threaten Dru, realizing that’s who matters to Spike. She locks them all in. Everyone escapes but Ford. They do actually give him what he wanted, but they leave him in the basement so they must have known what would happen to him. I guess Spike is a man of his word… kind-of. I will say I always wondered what happened with Ford’s family. Where did they think he went? How did they think he died? Did Giles pay for his gravestone?

Finally we just have Buffy and Giles, standing by a grave. She doesn’t know what to say.

“It’d be simpler if I could just hate him. I think he wanted me to. It was easier for him to be the villain of the piece. But really he was just scared.” 

And that is one of the worst parts about growing up, if also one of the most important. Realizing that the monsters aren’t monsters, learning to empathize with the people who have done horrible things, even though you do not condone the horrible things. She stakes Ford when he rises and she begs Giles to tell her that maybe this gets easier, that she won’t have to keep doing this. He doesn’t know what to say either. So she takes Angel’s advice —

Lie to me.

Lie to Me 12

And Giles tells her what we would all like to hear and believe, even when we know it is not true. You will always be able to tell who is good and who is evil. No one ever dies. We will all live happily ever after.

It’s one of the first, hardest, and best stories about growing up that Buffy ever told me.

RE: Halloween

Okay, I am going to start right out by saying that I feel like Joelle and I clearly seem to have like differing levels of love for Ethan Rayne. Because I could basically write this entire entry about just how much I love Ethan Rayne. I have had a crush on Ethan since I was a wee thing (by which I mean like 16) and if I was a shipper, I would be all about Giles/Ethan, because that is super sexy. Okay. I will stop talking about Ethan for a minute. But only for a minute.

And yet all of the pictures of this beautiful man are SO DARK! WHY DO YOU HATE ME, SCREENCAPPING SITE?

And yet all of the pictures of this beautiful man are SO DARK! WHY DO YOU HATE ME, SCREENCAPPING SITE?

I do not know how I feel about Spike getting film of Buffy. I’ve been thinking about it the entire episode and trying to decide how I feel about it. Like I agree that in future we typically see him as much more impulsive and talking about being driven by blood and such. We see that played up a lot more when it becomes the Angelus/Spike/Dru triangle. I also feel like what he gets out of it is weird. Like would other Slayers not use the very obvious pointy wooden object as a stake? Surely other Slayers have ALSO been that smart. I don’t know. That is my conclusion. Maybe they’re still trying to figure out the character.

Halloween 2

Seriously, she’s so pretty. Just saying.

I always had a really hard time when I was younger taking Buffy’s insecurity when she comes to meet Angel seriously. It is not so hard for me now, but I do wish a little that they had not had her looking quite so beautiful. Like SMG is just really gorgeous at this point in the show (she is always gorgeous but I am really into her look here) and particularly in my late teen years, it was a little hard to take seriously that she was having these struggles. Even though I knew that was not the point. But you know. Having Buffy feel bad that the noblewoman had a tiny waist, WHEN BUFFY IS THE TINIEST PERSON AROUND. Okay. I’m done now. I realize insecurity is not tied to reality, this was just a real problem I always had growing up that actually added to my own insecurities at that time.

SO. Moving on from that. 😛 I do in general like the insecurities theme. I will not say a lot else about it but will deconstruct the costumes a little more when we get there.

So about taking kids trick-or-treating. Have things changed since the far off days of the 90’s? Because like… you can’t just take children without having background checks. Also, why would you WANT your troublemaker kids to take young children without supervision? I mean, obviously we know that Buffy is a good person, who is actually pretty good with kids from all appearances, but why would any parent trust their children to this program? This sounds like a TERRIBLE program.

I would also like to talk about how much male fashion has changed, while looking at

Seriously. Look at the shirt. And the pants. They're like... hanging off of him.

Seriously. Look at the shirt. And the pants. They’re like… hanging off of him.

Xander’s clothes. I live in a town where almost every man I see wears pants that would be far too small for me, so seeing Xander in clothes that appear to be like 2 sizes too big really amuses me. I mean, I remember when it was a thing. But it’s still funny. Also as a note, Xander’s line about “doing something damn manly” really feels like a precursor to Mal further down the line. It just sounds like something Mal would say.

The concept of going to read the Watcher diaries seems very silly to me. It’s a very high school, ill-conceived plan. Why would they assume that the Watcher diaries would have anything in them about Angel as a not vampire? Do they want to read about Angelus’ taste in women? Or like anything about Angelus because that doesn’t seem helpful. I realize that in fact there is a random drawing of a woman in the Angel entries (maybe the watcher was bored…?) but I don’t see any solid reason why that would have been the case.

Also poor Giles. Being so easily distracted. Giles you are totally a babe.

“Care bear with fangs” is one of my favorite Cordy lines ever. Why is she hanging out in the school after hours anyway? And if it is not after hours, why are they the only ones in the bathroom? Mysteries.

Why do they look so CALM? LOOK AT THIS MAN! *dies*

Why do they look so CALM? LOOK AT THIS MAN! *dies*

They all go to buy costumes, and Xander makes an Austin Powers joke. This is extraordinarily dated and I just would like to pretend that didn’t happen. But not so much that I can actually do that. I mean, I would like to say bad call but a teenage boy at this point would absolutely have made this joke so whatever. And then we have Ethan. *cartoon hearts fly everywhere* They all seem immune to his charms somehow.

I must take note of the Spike and Dru interchange only because it ALSO has one of my favorite bits of dialogue —

“Do you love my insides? The parts you can’t see?”
“Eyeballs to entrails, my sweet.”

If you want one of my most often quoted Buffy lines? That is absolutely it right there. Love early Dru SO MUCH.

Then back to Ethan BEING AMAZING. I love his crazy ass Chaos worshiping self. It’s such a perfect combination of ridiculous and over the top… it’s just like perfect. He’s so beautiful. I just love it.

Seriously, if I could, this whole review would be nothing but pictures of Ethan.

Seriously, if I could, this whole review would be nothing but pictures of Ethan.

I am not with Joelle on Willow’s costume either. I still think it’s kind-of hot. I mean, it is very 90’s but I was a child of the 90’s so maybe some things stuck. I dig it. But I would very much like to know what exactly she would have turned into if she had not put the ghost costume on.

I would like to know why parents in Sunnydale don’t take their own children trick-or-treating. Or why they ever let them out of their sight, honestly. Like nothing good will ever come of it.

I just really like Willow's face in this picture.

I just really like Willow’s face in this picture.

Okay. Onto the costumes. I agree that Buffy’s dialogue is super stilted and weird but here is my general theory, which I think is kind-of backed up by Ethan’s explanation of what happened? I don’t think that they actually turned into those things, exactly. I think they turned into more what they wished they were of those things. So like I don’t think that Buffy turned into a real girl from 1775, I think she turned into what her idea of that would be. This would certainly explain lines like “I bathe quite regularly!” which was definitely not true for anyone in 1775. Buffy wants to be a normal girl, but by mooning over the noblewoman, she’s actually wishing for something deeper and darker than that — she’s wishing to be helpless and dependent, to not have to worry about anyone else anymore, to be free of this responsibility. Ethan takes some of the darkest elements of what she’s wishing for and makes it real. It’s a theme we’ll see a lot with Buffy and it’s not the last time we’ll see it kick her in the ass.

I don’t know if this theory totally holds across the board. It is a little harder to explain Xander this way, at least it is if you assume that it is always the darkest side of “be

Did the Scoobies have a professional photo taken...?

Did the Scoobies have a professional photo taken…?

careful what you wish for.” As Joelle said, Xander is not bad here. He’s in control and on top of things, his masculinity is in fact much more healthy here than it is… possibly ever again in the show. It may rely more on a gun, but it is more secure. And Willow… is kind-of a mess with this theory. I would like to point out the extremely dark side of Larry turning into a pirate who is attempting to assault Buffy though. Just saying. There’s a lot of dark there, and I do think that it’s interesting.

I mean, whatever. I don’t have a lot to say about the rest of the episode. I will say that as a kid I was extremely attracted to Giles going all dark Giles and beating up on Ethan. Super into that. I would put a picture of it up, but… they are all very dark. Why was this episode so dark?

Mostly I want to know what exactly they told all those parents when their kids FINALLY got back to them.


First, I want to apologize for this post being late. It’s just like me to promise to keep a schedule and then immediately break it. In my defense, last week I got a new puppy and a head cold–the combination of which, apparently, renders me useless.

Anyways: yay! This episode is so good. SO GOOD. Not only is it entertaining as hell, but it’s so classically early-Buffy. The theme of “Halloween” is insecurity (Buffy’s, Xander’s, Willow’s) and this episode plays with those insecurities in hilarious ways.

The episode opens with Spike recording Buffy fighting a vampire, which always seems off to me. Would Spike really do this? Later on, we totally know Spike to be a spontaneous, impulsive type, so this is…weird to me. I guess maybe it was more so he could remain unknown to the Slayer for now. Whatevs.

The next scene is in The Bronze, where Cordelia is flirting with Angel and we actually see Angel smile for a change. I

Weird screen capture, but I promise that's a smile forming.

Weird screen capture, but I promise that’s a smile forming.

am totally not a Cangel shipper, but they’re cute here. Until Buffy comes in, sees and starts to leave, and Angel scampers to her. Buffy is a bit messy from the aforementioned vamp-fighting, and Cordelia embarrasses her, and Buffy is sad. Basically, the gist of this scene is that Buffy is feeling insecure about her desirability. This is tied in with her general discontent with being the Slayer, of course. As she tells Angel, “But who am I kidding? Dates are things normal girls have.” She goes on to say that normal girls think about nail polish and facials while she thinks about ambush tactics and beheading. I think she’s forgetting here that Angel is a 200-year-old vampire with a soul, fighting against evil – so, very much interested in ambush tactics and beheading and less interested in nail polish. Again, though, this is about Buffy’s insecurity, which has little to do with what Angel’s actually looking for in a girlfriend.

Next, at school, Snyder forces Buffy and the gang to volunteer to go Trick or Treating with kids. Oh, Snyder. I love that he also makes costumes mandatory. He really just wants to have fun with his constant bullying of high-schoolers. We also find out that nothing supernatural or sinister happens on Halloween, a fact I’ve always loved (even if it doesn’t always turn out to be true.)

Xander’s insecurity is shown next, when Larry (yay Larry! hi I missed you) asks him if Buffy is single and/or interested in him. Larry calls Buffy “fast” which upsets Xander. He tries to do “something damn manly” by making the argument

This sums up Xander's feelings.

This sums up Xander’s feelings.

physical. Larry easily takes control of the situation and is about to punch him when Buffy intervenes. Xander’s pride is wounded. He’s not romantically involved with the girl he likes, he’s not physically fit enough to win a fight, and on top of that, he can’t even get that weird pride thing some guys get from being beaten up AND he was rescued by a girl. Yeah, Xander’s “less than a man” complex is still in full swing here. And he’s a jerk about it.

We immediately switch gears into Buffy’s insecurity as she tells Willow all about her failed date with Angel. Willow assures her that Cordelia isn’t Angel’s type, but Buffy is unconvinced, so Willow suggests (somewhat accidentally) that they check out the Watcher’s diaries for details about Angel’s past. The way they distract Giles to sneak into the library is charming and wonderful.

Charming and wonderful, I say!

Charming and wonderful, I say!

Buffy and Willow find a drawing of…a lady that knew Angel? I always found it weird how vague this was. No name, just a date and a drawing – is that all there is about her? Why? Who bothered to write that down? Also, is this supposed to be Drusilla? Maybe Darla? So many questions. Regardless, this makes Buffy feel even more insecure, and Willow’s hasty comments about the woman’s “weird tiny waist” don’t comfort her. Instead, she fantasizes about what it would be like to be a noblewoman. I’m with Willow on this one: being able to vote is better than getting all dolled up for the delight of men. However, this is still about Buffy’s own insecurities, with herself as a girl and herself as the Slayer. She is equating having the luxury to focus on girly things with the luxury to be “normal,” i.e. not a Slayer.

This bathroom has the best lighting ever.

This bathroom has the best lighting ever.

Also in this scene, Buffy and Willow tell Cordelia that Angel is a vampire. She doesn’t believe them, but she looks really pretty.

Then they are in a costume shop. Willow wants to go as a ghost (a costume that will completely cover/disguise her) but Buffy encourages her to branch out and be “sexy and wild.” Maybe somewhat predictably, all three Scoobies pick costumes that speak to their insecurities: Willow as the ghost, Xander as an army man, and Buffy as a princessy noblewoman.

Meanwhile, Drusilla has a vision about Halloween making Buffy weak so Spike decides to cause mayhem. Ethan Rayne then does his mojo in the costume shop. Etc, etc.

Willow is....this.

Willow is….this.

On Halloween, Buffy’s all dolled up in her princess costume, excited to show Angel later that day. She managed to convince Willow to dress as…um…well, in an outfit that may have been sexy in 1998. By the time Xander arrives, though, she’s in her ghost costume, too insecure to be all midriff-y and alluring or whatever.

So then we have some Trick or Treating fun. Ethan finishes his spell and then shit goes down. Little kids turn into demons, Willow collapses and steps out of her body, Xander becomes capable and strong in the face of chaos and Buffy becomes utterly useless. I have to say, this episode was the first and only time I found Xander Harris attractive.

I don’t have much in the way of analysis about the actual switched-ness of this episode. It’s entertaining to see the characters we know so well acting completely out-of-character. Also, Willow walking through things and startling Giles is always fun. It’s interesting to me that Willow’s the only one who retains her memories. I guess “ghost costume” means she’s still Willow, but as a ghost. It doesn’t really make sense why Xander isn’t still Xander, but a Marine (or whatever). Still, I suppose the episode needed one of the Scoobies to be “themselves” and figure it out. Plus, then we get lines like: “She’s not Buffy.” “Who’s Buffy?” “Oh, this is fun.” Also, it makes sense with regard to the resolution, which I’ll get to in a minute.

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She falls down a lot.

Although adding comedic value, Buffy’s mannerisms and speech have always kind of grated on me in this episode. I don’t know if it’s due to Sarah Michelle Gellar’s acting, or the writing (that’s not how an 18th-century woman would necessarily speak, for one thing; for another, her lines are so straightforward [“I’m not meant to understand things!”] that it’s annoying), but yeah. Irritating. Anyway. There’s a lot of hijinks in the meantime, which I thoroughly enjoy watching, but to keep this review less than a novel’s length, I’m going to go ahead and skip ahead.

Giles and Willow figure out that Ethan’s costume shop must be responsible for the mayhem, and Giles goes to confront Ethan. This is the first inkling we get that Giles is kind of a total badass, which I love. So the spell is reversed in the nick of time, and Buffy isn’t eaten by Spike and instead pulls off her wig and kicks his ass. Yay!

To sum up the resolution to the Scoobies’ insecurities:

Xander: It’s interesting to note that he’s very self-confident as Army Xander, such that when Princess Buffy accuses him of being feeble for taking orders from Willow, he doesn’t care. Regular Xander definitely would have been annoyed by the suggestion that a woman has more power than him (as he was in the beginning of the episode) but Army Xander is like meh, whatever, I’ve got some barricading to do. Basically, what makes Army Xander more manly than Regular Xander is the security he has in his masculinity. I don’t know for sure if this confidence rubs off on Xander (either right away or later on) but it’s interesting anyway.

Regular clothes again. Btw: I have no idea why all these screenshots are so DARK. In the episode, she's not nearly as ominous standing there.

Regular clothes again. Btw: I have no idea why all these screenshots are so DARK. In the episode, she’s not nearly as ominous standing there.

Buffy: At the very end of the episode, she’s told by Angel that he never liked noblewomen anyway and finds her much more interesting. Which I guess she needed to hear. Anyway, her abilities as a Slayer saved the day yet again, so that probably helped her confidence some. Besides which, as an 18th-century girl, she was terrified by vampy Angel, so a relationship with him in that state literally wasn’t possible. He likes Slayer Buffy, and that seems to appease her (for now).

Willow: As I mentioned, there’s another reason Willow had to retain her memories as a ghost. By doing so, she gets over her insecurity of being visible/sexy/noticed. Once Giles breaks Ethan’s spell and she’s back in her ghost costume, she makes the choice to take it off, throw it away, and walk home in her sexy outfit. Yay, Willow! Also, we get another cute Oz “who IS that girl?” moment. Can they just be dating already?

Oh, and lest I forget, the episode ends on this glorious shot of Giles after reading an ominous message written by Ethan. Bless this episode.

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