Ghouls, ghosts, and goblins. Werewolves, demons, and vampires. And don’t forget bunnies. These are the dark, unnatural things that populate the Buffy universe from season to season. But, surprisingly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer has only featured two Halloween-themed television episodes and one recent Halloween-themed comic issue. What the what?!
This is a show bred for spooky and supernatural characters, prime real estate for an all out Halloween domination each year. The infrequent use of Halloween per season, however, has turned out to be a wise approach for this series. Each Halloween-themed episode and issue in the Buffy verse is an important mid-term occurrence for every other season.
It all began with season two, episode six. Aptly named “Halloween,” the episode debuted back when Buffy aired on television on Monday evenings – Monday, October 27, 1997 to be exact – and the Scooby gang was freshly formed in high school. We first learned about Halloween on the Hellmouth in this episode; the secret is that vampires and demons like to take a break, as it were, on All Hallow’s Eve. The first Halloween-themed episode of Buffy wasn’t an over-the-top monster mash, but rather it introduced a reoccurring character from Giles’ murky past, brought Spike and Drusilla closer to cracking the Buffy code, and gave insecure Xander and Willow a taste of leader power. All the while, our heroine was reduced into an 18th century lady who screamed, fainted, and cried in the face of evil. “Halloween” did a wonderful job moving the season from introduction-mode towards climax-mode for season two.
The next Halloween-themed episode skipped a season and aired on a Tuesday evening in 1999 during season four. Episode four, “Fear, Itself,” presented Halloween in the college setting, as freshmen Willow and Buffy, along with campus-matriculating Oz and civilian Xander, braved a fraternity’s scary house party. Written by David Fury, “Fear, Itself” had fun with traditional Halloween tropes while Buffy decided to “taking a vacation in dealing” after a bad college dating experience. Giles, festive in a giant sombrero, reminds Buffy that “creatures of the night find Halloween crass,” while college students unknowingly offer their scary house to a demon named Gachnar. This episode helped focus season four on the human aspects of fear; after all, fear is a very powerful human emotion and theme that populates the Buffy verse. Also, the insecurities of the Scooby gang noted in “Halloween” return full force in this episode, again marking the mid-term build-up for season four’s big character arcs.
The last televised Halloween-themed episode was “All the Way” from season six, written by David S. DeKnight, which aired October 30, 2001. The shaky Scooby relationships of season six after Buffy’s resurrection take the main seat in this episode while Halloween was offered up as a distraction for Dawn’s high school boredom. Four key mid-term moments in “All the Way” overshadowed the teen vamps and creepy ‘old man’ Kaltenbach: Giles realized Buffy’s reliance on him and started distancing himself from her, Willow and Tara argued throughout and Wil used magic on Tara without her permission, Dawn’s cry-for-help kleptomania was hinted at, and Xander started to fear his impending marriage plans to Anya. With these key Scooby moments included in the Halloween festivities, “All the Way” becomes one of the more crucial event episodes of the season and the prelude to the musical episode “Once More With Feeling.”
The most recent Buffy Halloween was created for the pages of season ten, issue #8, “Return to Sunnydale, Part One,” which concluded with issue #9, “Return to Sunnydale, Part Two.” Written by Christos Gage with a spooktastic cover by Steve Morris (see the expanded cover below), the first Halloween since the global return of magic is now an event which beckons Burning Man-style fanatics to the caved-in Hellmouth of Sunnydale. After losing the beloved slayer handbook, Vampyr, Buffy has to return to Sunnydale and track it down while in the shadow of the really big, ancient bads and certain resurrection plans. Season ten has so far reflected on many of the original Buffy themes from the show, like beloved character insecurities about adulthood, while dealing with the loss of those familiar original slayer-vampire rules. This Halloween issue, noted as a “starting point for new readers” of the Buffy comics, is the kind of Halloween-theme we love from Joss and team. It moves onwards towards the end of season ten with very little cheap shots or scare tactics thrown in, and tons of gushy but crucial character development. (Currently the series is on issue #20, “Triggers,” which hits stores today!)
Had every season included the required ghoulish Halloween-themed episode, Buffy the Vampire Slayer may have lost some of its originality and thematic writing. And with this beloved series, less is definitely more. After all, quality Halloween time is better than quantity.
What’s your favorite Buffy the Vampire Slayer Halloween moment? Let us know with a comment below.
Image Credit: Fox Home Entertainment and Dark Horse Comics