Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Warrior Woman Wednesday

Halloween is, as Buffy explains, an opportunity to "come as you aren't" and show the world what you could be under different circumstances. Unfortunately, the costumes provided to Buffy and her friends are enchanted, changing their identities based on their masks and robbing Sunnydale of its Slayer.

Previous: Reptile Boy

Buffy's (Sarah Michelle Gellar) relationship with Angel (David Boreanaz) is strained for a number of reasons, the most obvious of which is his vampire status. While Angel claims to be interested in Buffy as she is, she questions whether or not he might be more interested in her were she more akin to the women of his native time period, and it's her desire to conform to his ideals here that proves her own downfall.

Spike (James Marsters) is shown to use modern equipment in his stalking of the Slayer, sending out his minions with cameras to tape her battles so that he can review them later. He's determined to study her techniques in order to get a feel for her as an opponent before meeting her in battle, noting that she's resourceful as she stakes the vampire with a nearby signpost, and rethinking his strategy based on the fact that she likes the challenge of a fight. Spike doesn't want simply to kill her, he wants to savor the victory and enjoy the experience, and it's almost as though he's studying for an exam, excited to get the chance to take the Slayer down and already wallowing in his eventual success. The pleasure he takes as he finally closes in on the 18th century Buffy is evident, conveying his desire to kill her as he slowly works his way toward her, and in the moment she reverts back to her normal self, beating him down, it fuels the rage of their rivalry and is very telling of the relationship that they'll have over the course of the season.

When Buffy comes to the Bronze and sees Angel with Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter), her first instinct is to leave immediately, musing that "dates are things normal girls think about," while her life is based more on saving humanity from the forces of evil. It's clear that Buffy wants nothing more than to pursue a future with Angel, but she's aware that they're doomed before they've started, and it's a simple excuse to keep heartbreak at bay. Having been from the 18th century, Buffy grows convinced that Angel would be more interested in the noble women of 1775, when he was eighteen years old and still human. Her desire to please him inspires her costume choice, and while Angel's happy to admit that she wears it well, he's quick to tell her that "[he] hated the girls back then, especially the noble women[...]they were just incredibly dull." Angel likes Buffy for who she is now, and for her to try to change to appeal to him is disingenuous to everything that has attracted him to her. The more time that they spend together the more appealing they become as a couple, and their relationship is developing very naturally here to make the audience root for them.

Principal Snyder (Armin Shimerman) forces students, at random, to 'volunteer' to take kids around the neighborhood trick-or-treating, and while it is, indeed, a funny sequence, the issue is that he's targeting some of what he considers to be the most deviant students and entrusting them with the care of young children. Were something to go wrong in the evening, were he to prove right about the students chosen to take the kids out at night, he would be the one held accountable for whatever happened to them. While the audience is well aware that Buffy, Xander (Nicholas Brendon) and Willow (Alyson Hannigan) will keep these kids safe at all costs, Snyder has every reason to believe the opposite, and his actions here are simply flawed.

Buffy notes that Halloween is quiet for vampires, stating that it's "dead for the undead, they stay in," giving her the rare night off from patrolling. The reasoning behind the lack of demonic activity on Halloween is never mentioned or expanded upon, and while Buffy does ask Giles about it, she does it facetiously and there is never an answer given. The fact that Halloween is quiet could be for any number of reasons, but given the fact that it's mentioned more than once it would have been nice if the writers had put any thought into an actual answer.

It's fun to see these actors playing different characters here, and Gellar does exceptionally well during her more terrified scenes, including Spike's attack, but more specifically Pirate Larry's (Larry Bagby III) attempted rape, tears streaming down her face and a very real terror in her eyes. Gellar clearly also has fun with some of 18th century Buffy's dialogue, notably the scene wherein she thinks a car is a demon and wonders what it wants. Hannigan portrays Willow's journey from self-conscious to liberated woman very well throughout this story, and her ditching of the costume in the end feels incredibly earned for the trials that she's gone through.

Director Bruce Seth Green has a few continuity missteps in this episode, including, but not limited to, the fact that a vampire's image reflects in a video camera and that one vampire gets into Buffy's house uninvited, but for the most part his eye for detail is largely good. The story here is mostly about Willow's journey, starting with Buffy's comment that "[she's] never gonna get noticed if [she] keep[s] hiding," followed quickly by her sexy makeover. It's rough going at first, as Willow decides to wear her ghost costume over top of her skimpy outfit, but her premature death here ensures that she's forced to walk the night without the cover of her sheet. The sequence where the costumes takes over and the children become demons is very cleverly done, also leading to Willow's demise as she suffocated in a short but effectively scary moment. Forced to take charge, Willow leads soldier Xander and noble woman Buffy to safety, and it's in these scenes that there are many small details, like Xander's army tattoos and the transformation of his toy gun into a real one, that are done very subtly but incredibly well for those that notice. Through the night Willow is forced to make the tough decisions, growing more confident in her abilities as she proves that she can save the day as well as either of her friends, and it gives her the nerve to ditch her costume in the end and walk home proud, earning Oz's (Seth Green) attention once more as she passes him by.

There are a lot of elements in Carl Ellsworth's script that really add to the greater whole to make a genuinely entertaining episode. Near the top of the story, when Xander is getting bullied by Larry, Buffy comes to his rescue, effectively emasculating him, and the later bookend of Xander coming to Buffy's aide when Larry attacks her is incredibly satisfying. Cordelia's determination that she's Buffy's constant better in everything, stating that "when it comes to dating, [she's] the Slayer," plays perfectly on Buffy's insecurities while also being perfectly in character for Cordelia. I love the fact that Buffy tells Cordelia, in a very straightforward manner, that Angel is a vampire, only to have Cordelia completely dismiss her assuming that Buffy just wants to keep her away from him. Buffy's 18th century dialogue is quite funny, and, for the most part, well-delivered by Gellar, and Giles' reaction to Willow's intangible status made me laugh out loud. The most gripping portion of the episode is Ethan's (Robin Sachs) hinting towards Giles' darker past, and the fact that Giles so very nearly committed murder here in order to protect the well-being of his Slayer and his secret.

With his parting note, it's very clear that Ethan will return to wreak havoc on Sunnydale at some point in the future, and his return is likely to herald a paradigm shift in the way that Giles is viewed. It would also be interesting to see Willow talking to Buffy about having experienced death, as the trauma of suffocating and falling lifeless to the ground is something that not many can relate to, though it seems that this should have had a much more profound effect on her than it did.

Next: Lie to Me


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