I’m back with more Halloween t.v. in time for…Halloween. I didn’t forget! And I have another Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode. This is the fourth episode of season four, “Fear, Itself.” It’s the second of three Halloween-themed Buffy episodes. “Halloween” is the really popular episode but, of all three (Including the season six episode “All the Way”), I think that “Fear, Itself,” is the best episode. It manages to be scary, funny, and a little more serious than “Halloween” without being the epic downer that every single episode of season six was.
This episode is two years after we last left the gang. Buffy broke up with Angel but is dealing with her first college crush and the fear that she’ll always be alone and never be able to let people near her. Xander is feeling left out since he decided not to go to college. Willow is afraid but excited to continue exploring her witchcraft (Not the “witchcraft” wink-wink that she did with Tara. And Oz, Willow’s boyfriend at the time, is scared about his werewolf nature overcoming him.
Buffy visits Giles to see if she should patrol.
Giles reminds Buffy that the creatures of darkness view Halloween as crass. So Buffy and the gang decide to go to a frat party/haunted house. Xander is sort of dating Anya, the former vengeance demon that he met last season, and he invites her to the party as well.
Before the party, we see the frat boys trying to decorate. One of them is painting a symbol on the floor from a library book. He’s clearly not from Sunnydale because anyone from Sunnydale knows not to even doodle anything you find in the Sunnydale library.
Once the party starts, the house starts creating people’s fears. This includes peeled grapes turning into eyeballs.
The Scoobies enter the house and discover that it’s labyrinthine, deserted, and impossible to find the party. The group starts to bicker and the fissures that will divide them this season–and will never really be quite resolved–become apparent.
Buffy wants to charge alone, into the woods, and have the rest of the gang be backup.
Xander becomes–literally–invisible. Say “hi” to Marcie Ross if you find her!
Oz starts to wolf out, even though there isn’t a full moon.
Willow wants to do a spell to find the partygoers and help them, but Buffy snarks that on a good day her spells are about 50/50 successful. Willow goes ahead anyway, and is attacked by what she conjures.
Anya is late for the party because she had to find a sufficiently scary costume.
What I really like about this episode in particular, and this season, is Anya rediscovering her humanity and really falling for Xander. When she arrives at the frat house, there’s no door. She looks up and sees a girl screaming in the window and the window literally disappears. She runs to the only person who can help her, Giles, who, ironically, destroyed her power source last season.
By now, the gang has been lured upstairs by whatever evil is in the house. Giles and Anya make their way up with the help of the chainsaw.
It turns out that the symbol that was painted on the floor summoned the demon of fear, Gachnar. Destroying the symbol…won’t destroy the demon, and that’s all I’ll say. There’s a moderate twist ending, but I enjoy it so I’ll let you enjoy it unspoiled.
For me, this season is the last really good season of Buffy. Season five is ok, but I just really hated the introduction of Dawn. I hated the character and I hated the acting, and that makes me sad because I used to really like Michelle Trachtenberg circa Pete and Pete and Harriet the Spy. And, for me, seasons six and seven (and the eight comic) are just severe downers. It’s like the show (and comic) lost the joy that used to be in the show.
I’ve seen this episode multiple times but it still manages to deliver tension and some scares. I like that it’s snarky without being affectated (memo to Diablo Cody.) But it’s also earnest without being cheesy. The characters on the show care about each other and it’s not all back-stabbery. I really think that every snarky teen show on the air nowadays owes a debt to the awesome writing of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
I seriously think that I’m going to skip “All the Way” in my Halloween T.V. Episode Roundup because it really lacks the fun that a special Halloween episode requires.