“She couldn’t have dressed up like Xena?”
The episode opens in a pumpkin patch located in the fictional town of Sunnydale, California. In fact, the town, which is the antithesis of quaint and quiet, sits atop an area known as the Hellmouth. The location is a gateway between the human world, and a place from where all types of dark and dangerous creatures venture forth. Buffy Summers, portrayed by Emmy winner, Sarah Michelle Gellar (Cruel Intentions), is the current slayer. The petite, ultra-tough teen, is part of a lineage of female warriors. When one slayer dies, another ‘chosen one,’ as girls such as Buffy are referred to, will rise to take the deceased slayer’s place. Buffy, in her capacity as slayer, is someone who protects humanity from the evil entities, especially the never ending attacks by vampires, one of whom she is fighting at the start of the episode.
Unbeknownst to Buffy, the fight is being videotaped for Spike (James Marsters), a British, leather duster jacket wearing, platinum blonde haired vampire. His character, at the airing of the episode, is one hundred and forty-four years old. He has vanquished two slayers during his long life. The first was Xin_Rong, a Chinese Slayer, during The Boxer Rebellion (November 2, 1899 – September 7, 1901). The second was Nikki Wood, an African American Slayer, who he fought to the death in the 1970s, aboard a moving New York City subway car. He will use the video footage of Buffy’s fight to look for weaknesses in her that he can exploit. Spike, along with his paramour, Drusilla (Juliet Landau), also a vampire, has come to Sunnydale for the express purpose of killing the slayer.
After Buffy finishes fighting, she makes her way to ‘The Bronze,’ a popular local hangout. Her reason for going there is not to socialize with her good-hearted friends – Willow Rosenberg, played by Alyson Hannigan (How I Met Your Mother), and Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon). No, on that particular night, Buffy has arrived at ‘The Bronze,‘ post fight, to go on a date with Angel, a role acted by David Boreanaz (Bones). When she gets there, however, she sees Angel sitting at a table with the attractive Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter). From what Buffy can observe, Angel is all smiles, and laughing at Cordelia’s jokes, so she turns to leave. Angel sees Buffy leaving and goes after her. When he tries to get her to stay, she basically tells him that right now, normal girl stuff, such as dating, is not what she is about.
The next day at school coincides with Halloween. Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head), is Sunnydale High School’s librarian. He is also the person who watches over and teaches Buffy about the world she fights in. Giles has told Buffy that Halloween is traditionally a slow night for demonic activity. Thinking she can spend a rare, peaceful night off from slaying, and just be with her friends, she’s mistaken. Buffy, Willow, and Xander are not asked, but told by Principal Snyder (Armin Shimerman), that they are going to be taking children trick-or-treating from 4:00pm – 6:00pm, and that dressing up in a costume is mandatory. The purchasing of the costumes, at a place called ‘Ethan’s,’ is the catalyst that leads to the chaos that takes place in Sunnydale for the remainder of the episode. The reason for this, is no matter what costume or prop Buffy and her friends purchase from Ethan’s, later that evening, they will take on the character traits of the costumes they are wearing. The same will happen to all the children whose parents bought their kids costumes depicting the faces and bodies of ghouls, goblins, and the like. This is thanks to the sinister, Ethan Rayne (Robin Sachs), who the viewer will learn is a former friend of Giles. Ethan brings about the transformation spell by uttering incantations to the statue of Janus, who amongst other things, is the mythical, Roman God of transitions.
In an effort to appear more feminine to Angel, Buffy has dressed as a noblewoman from the time period of the late 1700s before Angel was turned into a vampire. As a result of her choice of costume, she has no powers, and doesn’t remember who she is. Additionally, she has no understanding of the current time period. For example, when she sees a car coming down the street, she thinks it is a monster. Xander has also forgotten his past, but because he is dressed as a soldier, he takes on the role of protector, usually reserved for Buffy. Willow, who originally dressed up like she was going to a nightclub, opted to cover herself with a sheet, and go trick-or-treating as a ghost. Due to her choice of costume, she has retained all of her memories, and goes in search of Giles, in order to find out what can be done to put an end to the mayhem. When Willow tells Giles what has happened, and the name of the costume shop, he sets off to find his old friend. During their confrontation, Ethan calls Giles by the nickname ‘ripper’; it is the first time that name is ever associated with Buffy’s watcher. Furthermore, while verbally and physically insisting that Ethan reverse the spell, the viewer is treated to a much darker version of Giles that has not been previously seen in the series.
Will Giles force Ethan to reverse the spell? If he doesn’t, what can be done to change everyone back to their former selves? What will be the extent of the damage if the spell can be reversed? Those questions, and more will be answered by the conclusion of the second season’s, Halloween themed episode; one of only three Buffy episodes to be based on Halloween. Furthermore, the character of Ethan Rayne would return to appear in three more Buffy episodes: “The Dark Age” (1997), “Band Candy” (1998), and “A New Man,” (2000).
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was created by Oscar nominee, Joss Whedon (Toy Story). The series premiered, as a mid-season replacement, on March 10, 1997, and concluded at the end of its seventh season on May 20, 2003. “Halloween” premiered on October 27, 1997. The forty-four minute episode was directed by Bruce Seth Green (Angel), and written by Carl Ellsworth (The Last House on the Left). Additional contributions to the writing of the episode are credited to Rob Des Hotel (That ’70s Show), and Dean Batali (Ties That Bind), as executive story editors. If you’re like me, and couldn’t miss an episode when Buffy had its original run on television, but haven’t seen it in a while, this is a fun episode to watch, at this time of year.