Leave it to Buffy to subvert even its own ‘verse’s traditions. Turns out, Halloween’s not as quiet as we thought.
Halloween is a great episode. I mean, in many ways, it’s still such a “Season Two” episode, but I think it’s great despite that. Why? Well… Why did I think Nightmares was a good episode?
… Never mind, I’ll answer that. It’s ‘cause we deal with my favoritest thing ever in Buffy: character development! Sure, there’s the whole plotline with the costumes and chaos running rampant and Ethan Rayne (hi, Ethan!), but this episode is primarily character development. How, you ask? Well, okay, I’ll tell ya.
First, a note on the Roman god invoked by Ethan, Janus. Giles mentions that he is a god presiding over the division of self, dealing in dualities like light and dark, and male and female. He… is sort of right. Janus is the Roman god of beginnings, actually, and of transitions (which is why he looks both backwards and forwards and our first month of the year is his namesake). Also, doors and gateways, and other things symbolic of beginnings. Wait. I said “transitions,” didn’t I? As in, “the transition from childhood to adulthood”? Hmm. I’m not saying that’s meaningful, I’m just saying that it totally is.
Anyway, Janus is also significant because a transition is exactly what happens to the gang due to Ethan’s tainted costumes. Let’s take these one by one, shall we? Let’s start with Xander (who was very hot in this episode, I must admit).
As I’ve said before, Xander deals a lot with issues of masculinity. We even see it in the beginning of the episode, when he deals with Larry. Two things: (1) Xander, what did we say re: Buffy taking care of herself? Hm? and (2) Xander buys pretty heavily into this whole “being manly means being able to fight” thing. The fact that in their little group, the “warrior” is often a girl (read: Buffy) both excites and frustrates him. It’s a reversal of what he’s used to, and it intrigues him, but it also makes him feel not a whole man.
So his choice of costume is utterly not surprising. If it wasn’t soldier, it’d be cowboy (which he did already), gladiator (he’s not too down with the nudity, though), or suave secret double-0 Xander.
You can see, however, that even as a warrior, Xander is more than happy to defer to Willow when she takes command, so his issues with masculinity are not that he has to “take orders from a woman,” per se (and good for him, too!), but that he’s really not needed to defend their honor, or to express his masculinity by holding his own in a fight. Being the Halloween soldier kinda alleviates all that. It even gives him closure by being able to “express his masculinity” on Larry’s face!
… Er, that came out a lot dirtier than I meant it…
Anywho, moving on to Willow.
Willow is an interesting study. We don’t usually get to explore her psyche, and even in Nightmares, she only had one nightmare to contend with, as opposed to two and even three like the rest of the gang.
I mentioned that Willow fears the spotlight as much as she covets it, and that’s still true. Even though her nightmare was to be put on the spot, her subconscious automatically made her the “star” of the show. And we still see that here. Although the costume that *ahem* comes to life is the ghost, what she’s wearing underneath is still significant, especially since it’s the one we “see” throughout the episode.
Willow wants to be invisible almost as much as she wants to be seen. Notice how she comes into her power after she becomes a ghost; commanding Xander, making plans, contacting Giles. It takes being immaterial (as in “incorporeal”) to make her take charge. It’s easier to take command when it doesn’t physically affect you, I suppose. However, I’m being a little unfair here. Willow’s demonstrated that she takes charge before, in Reptile Boy. And she will again. But so far, this has only happened when Buffy is indisposed. When Buffy’s around, she becomes “invisible” again, and she’s glad of it. The costume beneath the ghost is one that’s usually chosen for her, whereas she chooses to be the ghost. Hopefully that’ll change.
And finally, there’s Buffy.
Buffy’s still trying to be “normal.” By which she means “girly.” Of course, we’re talking “girly” in the traditional sense, in which we’re nothing more than lovely, vacuous airheads who dream of rich husbands and pretty dresses. Now, the good thing about this show is that this is not something she wishes for long. In fact, this show is all about rejecting that view of femininity. Buffy thinks that being the Slayer means losing all that is feminine about her. Someone that thinks beheading rather than nail polish, or ambush tactics rather than facials. That, to her, falls into masculine, and therefore, makes her unattractive and Other. Something that Angel will reject. Which… what the fuck?! She thinks Angel, a vampire, will reject her for being Other? Oh, dear.
What I like about this episode, however, is that this silliness is pretty swiftly rejected. Maybe not overtly by Buffy (yet), but strides are made. Angel isn’t interested in that version of femininity, he’s interested in capable, self-reliant, can-kick-ass-in-Dolce Buffy. It’s funny, because normal Buffy is far from masculine anyway. And normal… well, what’s normal? Oblivious? Ignorant? Constantly in danger? Ill-equipped? I’ll take Door Number Two. And so will Buffy. For now, anyway.
We can also explore Giles, because some interesting scenes with Ethan reveal some sexy—I mean odd traits. However, Giles has an episode coming up, and we can explore him then.
However, it’s interesting to see how the gang handled “Come As You Aren’t” Night, by coming as they aren’t, but wish they could be. I love these kinds of episodes!
- Angel and Cordy actually get along pretty well. I think this may be the episode that made me a budding Cangel shipper.
- I remember when canned soda was 60 cents!
- Hey, Xander, Buffy can defend her own honor!
- The Great Watcher Diary Caper is a source of great amusement to me.
- “Do you stuff your own shirts, or do you send them out?”
- In 1775, Angel was a lot older than 18, and was already a vamp.
- Usually, I get annoyed at TV Halloweens, ‘cause everyday teens have extremely elaborate costumes that there’s no way they could afford unless they’re rich, but this episode did okay.
- …Spike does homework?
- I love you, Oz. Have my babies!
- So… that kid dressed as a flower… did she buy her costume at Ethan’s?
- How’d that vampire even get in to Buffy’s house? There are rules, mister!
- …Except Buffy sometimes can’t defend her own honor…
- Yay, Badass Giles!