Halloween S2 E6 (Buffy and the Art of Story)

Buffy and the Art of Story Podcast CoverThis week on the podcast Buffy and the Art of Story: Halloween (Season 2 Episode 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer):

(1) why Buffy is the protagonist but someone else saves the day; (2) Willow gains confidence incrementally; and (3) we see another side to Giles that foreshadows future episodes and keeps us coming back.

As always, the discussion is spoiler-free, except at the end (with plenty of warning).

Next Up: Lie to Me S2 E7

Last Week: Reptile Boy S2 E5

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About Lisa M. Lilly

In addition to hosting the podcast Buffy and the Art of Story, Lisa M. Lilly is the author of the bestselling four-book Awakening supernatural thriller series and the Q.C. Davis mysteries, as well as numerous short stories. She also writes non-fiction, including books on writing craft, under L.M. Lilly. She is the founder of WritingAsASecondCareer.com.

Episode Transcript for Halloween

Hello and welcome to Buffy and the Art of Story Season Two. If you love Buffy the Vampire Slayer and you love creating stories – or just taking them apart to see how they work – you’re in the right place.

I am Lisa M Lilly, author of the Awakening supernatural thriller series and the Q.C. Davis mysteries and founder of WritingAsASecondCareer.com.

This week we’re talking about Halloween, Season Two Episode Six.

What’s In Store For Halloween

I’ll cover:

  • how the writers handle side key character emotional arcs;
  • story questions about Giles that keep the viewers hooked and coming back for future episodes;
  • small progress in ongoing storylines like Willow and Oz, which also help keep viewers coming back; and
  • how Buffy can still be the protagonist when another character saves the day.

As always, there will be no Spoilers except at the end to talk about foreshadowing but I’ll give you plenty of warning.

Okay, let’s dive into the Hellmouth.

Halloween was written by Carl Ellsworth and directed by Bruce Seth Green.

Opening Conflict

We start with our Opening Conflict. Right away, we see a sign that says Pop’s Pumpkin Patch. Buffy is thrown on the ground. Hay and pumpkins are all around. She fights back against the vampire by throwing small pumpkins and gourds at him.

As they are fighting the viewpoint shifts. We see a vampire holding a video camera. He is recording the entire fight from a safe distance. Buffy finally uses another sign that is wooden and on a wooden stake. She uses it to dust the vampire. Despite that she won, she leaves looking fairly disgusted.

This is about 1 minute 36 seconds in, and we go to credits. After the Credits we get the conflict that is at the heart of the story.

Remember, our Opening Conflict in a story can be what hints at our main plot or it can be completely unrelated and just there to bring the reader into the protagonists or another character’s ordinary world.

Here, we had both in the pumpkin patch. This definitely brought us into Buffy’s ordinary world – yet another night of fighting vampires. We will also see right after the credits how that plays into the emotional conflict of the episode, which is the heart of the plot.

Angel Alone At The Bronze

We switch to the Bronze. But we see Angel, not Buffy. Angel is alone at a table, looking very awkward and kind of glancing around, his elbows on the table. Cordelia joins him. She is waiting for Devon who was mentioned, I think in the last episode. He is the lead singer she is dating, and it appears he is late or is just not showing up.

She says something about how he thinks being in a band gives him an excuse to treat her badly. And she says my first favorite quote of the episode.

Cordelia (to Angel): His loss is your incredible gain.

Buffy shows up a few moments later. She sees Cordelia and Angel together. He is laughing at something Cordelia said. As soon he sees Buffy, though, he heads over to her. He picks a leaf out of her hair.

Cordelia comes up behind him and says something snarky like, “Love the hair, Buffy. It just screams street urchin.”

Nearing The Inciting Incident In Halloween

Buffy says she needs to go. Angel tells her she looks fine but, at about 4 minutes in, she says dates are for normal girls with time to think about nail polish and facials. She thinks about things like ambush tactics and beheadings. Not the things dreams are made of. And she leaves.

This take on romance and relationships is somewhat shallow or superficial, but Buffy is only sixteen ,and she is really struggling with that feeling that having fun and dating is something that maybe just can’t be part of her world anymore.

I mentioned the timing because we are coming to our Story Spark or Inciting Incident. That normally comes about 10% into the episode, sometimes a little bit later. So here we were right about 10%.

The Story Spark

I think that these comments from Cordelia, and Buffy feeling like she just can’t be in that world of dating and socializing and having fun that she so longs to be part of, is the Story Spark here.Bbecause it both sets off Buffy’s emotional arc in the episode, and it is why she later chooses the costume that she does for Halloween. Without that we would still have a Halloween story, but it wouldn’t be this story.

After Buffy leaves, Cordelia comes up behind Angel with a large cup of I guess it’s cappuccino because she says, “Cappuccino?”

Trick Or Treat Orders

At 4 minutes 29 seconds in, so a little bit past or probably right at the 10%, we are back at Sunnydale High.

Lots of Halloween decorations everywhere. Principal Snyder is “volunteering” students, which means requiring them to sign up to take little kids trick or treating. He ropes Buffy, Xander, and Willow in though he instructs Buffy not to speak to any of the kids because they don’t need her influence.

You can imagine that living somewhere like Sunnydale you definitely wouldn’t want your little kids going trick-or-treating alone.

He also tells them that costumes are mandatory.

So this too could be seen as the Story Spark because if Snyder didn’t require costumes, we also probably wouldn’t have this story. Maybe the answer is we need them both. These things have to combine to incite this story.

Giles Expects A Quiet Night And Xander Gets Mad

We learn that Giles has told Buffy that, contrary to what we all might think, Halloween is generally pretty quiet. As Buffy puts it, it’s dead for the undead.

Xander puts money in the vending machine. Before he can get his soda out a new character, Larry, walks up and asks Xander if he thinks Buffy might go out with him (with Larry). And he says he heard she was fast. Xander gets angry. He grabs Larry, who is much bigger than him, and threatens him.

Larry reaches his arm back to punch Xander, and Buffy grabs Larry’s arm, twists it behind his back, and shoves him up against the vending machine. And gets a free soda for her trouble. She tells Xander, “You’re welcome.”

But Xander is angry. He says, “A blackeye heals, Buffy, but cowardice has an unlimited shelf life.”

What Is Angel’s Type?

Buffy feels bad that she has unwittingly broken the guy code. She and Willow commiserate. Buffy also tells Willow about being late for her date and says Angel wasn’t mad. In fact, he was unmad, probably because he was with Cordelia.

Willow tries to reassure her, saying Angel would never fall for Cordelia’s act. And Buffy says something like, “You mean showing up wearing a stunning outfit and embracing personal hygiene act?”

Willow And Buffy Hatch A Plot

And she goes on to say she really doesn’t know Angel’s type. They have not talked that much. He doesn’t overshare, as Buffy says.

Willow gets an idea. And this is a nice exchange between them. A fun use of dialogue to show what in a novel might be a character’s inner thought process, but would be done so much better this way, where our two friends play off each other.

Willow: Too bad we can’t sneak in and read the Watchers’ Diaries. They’re full of fun facts to know and tell.

Buffy: Oh, they are, and it’s too bad because they are private.

Willow: Yes, and they’re also in Giles’ office in his personal files.

Buffy: Most importantly, it would be wrong.

Distracting Giles

Of course, our next scene is Willow and Buffy peering through the little window in the doors to the library. Buffy goes in. Giles then surprises her by coming out of the book cage.

He starts talking to her. She does her best to distract him while Willow sneaks in behind him goes to his office to get the diaries. Buffy runs through all kinds of topics, including asking more about Halloween. Which is really nice way to give the viewers a little bit more information while there is tension. Because we don’t know if Giles is going to turn around and see what Willow is doing.

Finally, a truly desperate Buffy blurts out that Miss Calendar said that Giles was a babe. She is clearly making this up. Giles, though, is distracted, so she achieves her goal.

This also has the effect of reminding viewers about Giles and Jenny Calendar. We are going to see her in this episode, but it’s a very nice way to say hey, remember how Giles and Jenny have this relationship starting out?

As viewers, we will listen to exposition and not be bored by it because we still have this ongoing tension of Buffy trying to distract Giles.

There’s also some humor there. Because after Buffy leaves, Giles looks bemused. I expected he was going to comment to himself about how strangely. Buffy was acting. Instead, he says, “A babe. I can live with that” and kind of laughs.

Nearing The First Major Plot Turn

We’re now nearing the one-quarter point in the episode. Usually at that point we will see some sort of event that spins the story in a new direction. It typically comes from outside our protagonist.

Here, Willow and Buffy are in the Girls restroom. They’re looking through the diaries. Now, they did decide to steal the diaries, so in a way this comes from Buffy’s actions. She didn’t know what she was going to find there.

What takes her attention is a drawing of what is probably a noblewoman. She is in this beautiful gown. It’s from seventeen seventy-five when Angel was eighteen years old and still human.

Buffy exclaims at how beautiful the woman was and says how amazing it would be to have lots of gowns and servants and go to balls, Willow says she prefers being able to vote, or at least she will when she is old enough to.

This longing Buffy has for this other life, and this fear or feeling that perhaps this is the kind of young woman that would attract or appeal to Angel, could be our One-Quarter Twist. I definitely think it is for Buffy’s emotional arc.

I’m not sure by itself it is enough to turn the plot. I think that comes a little bit later.

Cordelia Taunts Buffy

First, we have Cordelia come in. She taunts Buffy about how she kept Angel company after Buffy left. Cordelia does not believe Willow and Buffy when they tell her Angel is a vampire. She reads this as Buffy being jealous.

And she says in another great quote, “Oh, he’s a vampire. Of course, but the cuddly kind. Like a Care Bear with fangs.” She then tells Buffy that Buffy may know all about this demon stuff, but when it comes to dating Cordelia is the Slayer.

Choosing Costumes

At 12 minutes 50 seconds into the episode, so a little more than a quarter way through, Xander, Willow, and Buffy go to the costume shop.

Willow chooses a ghost costume, which is basically a sheet that goes over her head, completely covers her, and has the word Boo written across the chest in big letters. It has eyeholes so she can see.

Buffy tries to convince her she’s missing the point of Halloween. That she’ll never get any attention if she keeps covering herself up and hiding, Willow is not at all comfortable with that idea of dressing up sexy and wild, so she gets her ghost costume.

Xander gets a toy gun and says he has fatigues at home to complete his costume. Clearly he wants to be tough and what he sees as manly. Buffy apologizes for the incident with Larry and promises to let Xander get pummeled in the future. He says okay.

The One-Quarter Twist In Halloween

Xander still talking but Buffy stops listening. She’s distracted, drawn to a beautiful gown with a small waist and a huge skirt. It’s very much like the one in the drawing.

This is 14 minutes in. I think this is the true One-Quarter Twist in the episode. The first major plot turn. It spins the story in a new direction because it ensures that Buffy will be weak during the coming chaos.

Xander looks at the dress and kind of scoffs. He says he prefers spandex.

The store proprietor comes out and says she looks like a princess. Buffy can’t afford the gown, but the proprietor tells her he feels quite moved and will make her deal she can’t refuse.

Spike Admires Buffy’s Fighting Style

We switch to Spike and the vampire who made the video of Buffy. Spike is watching Buffy fight and admiring her style. He says she’s tricky. “See that when she stakes him with that thing – that’s resourceful.”

Dru wanders in and she’s talking about Miss Edith, her doll, needing tea. And then she says to Spike does he love her insides, “the parts you can’t see?” In another great quote that has always stuck with me. Spike says, “Eyeballs to entrails, my sweet.”

Studying The Slayer

He tells her that is why he has to study the Slayer and kill her. So that Dru can have the run of Sunnydale. Which I’m pretty sure he calls Sunny Hell.

This is another example of great exposition through conflict. We get very quickly that there is something wrong with Dru and that Spike is hoping that killing the Slayer will somehow restore Dru. Or at least put her in a place where she is able to feed and terrorize people and perhaps heal herself.

Dru tells him don’t worry, she has seen everything. That something is changing and it makes Buffy weak. And Spike says, “On Halloween? Nothing happens on Halloween.” But Dru says someone has come to change it all.

What Will Change It All

We are about 16 minutes in and we see the proprietor of the costume shop. Later we’ll learn his name is Ethan, so I’ll just call him that. He cuts his hands, dabs blood on his face, and says something about chaos and calls himself “thy Faithful Degenerate Son.” He is in front of a statute of Janus, a two-faced god. It looks really creepy. We see one side and then the other with two very different expressions.

Next we’re with Buffy. She’s wearing a black wig, lots of curly hair piled up on her head, and she’s in that fancy gown. She mentions that her mom is gone for the night, and she tells Willow to come out. She can’t hide all night long.

Willow emerges. She is wearing a black leather skirt and boots, a shirt with a plunging neck line and a bare mid drift, and much heavier make up then we usually see. Lipstick, eyeliner, eyeshadow. She looks great, and it’s clear she feels very awkward by her body language. She crosses her arms over her stomach as if to hide it as Buffy leaves to answer the doorbell.

Xander is there in his army fatigues. Very impressed with Buffy, whom he calls the Duchess of Buffonia. He says he hereby renounces spandex. She is excited for him to see Willow and says, “But wait till you see – Casper.” Because Willow has come down the stairs and she has put her ghost costume on. We can’t see anything of Willow. She is completely covered by that sheet.

Character Through Lines

At school, everyone gets their groups of little kids separately.

We see Cordelia walking through the hall. She’s wearing a tight-fitting leopard print cat costume with fuzzy ears. And we continue some character through lines that have been going for the season: Cordelia and Devon and Oz and Willow.

Oz is putting away his guitar in front of his locker. Cordelia says asks if his band is practicing that night. And will he see “Devon I’m a lead singer and I’m so cool I don’t have to show up for my date or even call?” Oz says yes, but he’s just going by Devon now. Cordelia tells him to tell Devon she doesn’t care that he didn’t show up, and she didn’t even mention it, and in fact she didn’t even see Oz.

So he asks well, what do I tell him? And she says something like, “Nothing! Get with the program.” As she stalks off, Oz says to himself, “Why can’t I meet a nice girl like that?”

Oz And Willow Subplot

Willow, in her ghost costume so nobody can tell who she is, comes around the corner just as Oz is starting down the hall. They almost collide.

And we have this wonderful back-and-forth as they are both moving to try to get around each other. It’s not going so well. And Oz says – and I’m sure I can’t do the inflection right – but:

Oz: “Oh, I’m sorry.”

Willow: Sorry.

Oz: I’m sorry.

Willow: Sorry.

Oz: Sorry.

And Oz walks around her. Such a nice way to just further that Oz and Willow interaction just the slightest bit. And again using humor and conflict so that we are intrigued not bored.

It isn’t even like we really have an Oz-Willow subplot just in this episode. It’s more like we have an Oz-Willow subplot they’re very slowly building. Starting with Inca Mummy Girl and moving just the tiniest bit in each of these episodes.

Trick Or Treat – Midpoint Reversal

Everyone is trick-or-treating. The kids are in all kinds of different costumes. Separately, we see Ethan chanting in what I think is Latin in front of the statue and a bunch of candles.

A group of little kids rings a doorbell. An older lady answers. She tells them they are adorable. And we are at 22 minutes in, so the slightest bit past the Midpoint.

And we get such a strong Midpoint Reversal for Buffy. There’s this wind as Ethan is chanting. All the candles blow out, and Ethan says, “Showtime.”

So we also have our antagonist committing in full to the quest. He’s clearly been preparing this, setting things in motion. Doing this ritual. And now he has thrown all in and is ready to see what happens.

It’s really nice when you get that combination of this significant reversal for the protagonist and a very strong commitment by the antagonist.

Everyone Changes

All the little kids turn into real monsters or whatever their costumes are. They attack the old lady.

Willow tells the kids with her to stop, but she can’t stop them herself. She staggers back and falls onto the porch, unable to breathe. A second later she stands, but she rises right out of the ghost costume which remains on the porch. She is in her leather skirt and boots and her shirt with a bare mid drift. So she didn’t change out of that. She just had put the ghost costume over it.

She looks at herself and looks down and says, “Oh my God, I’m a real ghost.”

She hears a machine gun firing, says, “Xander!” and runs to find him.

Xander does not know who Willow is. But when she walks right through him, he becomes convinced that she is really a ghost and a little bit more inclined to believe the other things she’s telling him.

Finding Buffy

A monster approaches. Xander starts to shoot. Willow yells at him, “No, no guns. That’s still a little kid in there.” Willow also says, “We just need to find Buffy.”

And Buffy is in fact close by. As the monsters converge, Willow turns to her and says to Buffy, “What we do?”

Buffy passes out, and we get another series of nice quotes:

Willow (to Xander): She’s not Buffy.

Xander: Who’s Buffy?

Willow: Oh, this is fun.

When Buffy wakes up we find out she thinks it’s seventeen seventy-five.

Wish Fulfillment

I’ve watched this episode so many times, and this is the first time that, because I was taking notes, I realized that than the year Buffy names is the same year of that drawing in the Watchers Diaries. This underscores what Ethan will tell us later. That this is all about wish fulfillment. Which we will see again and Buffy, as I’ll talk about in the Spoilers.

They go to Buffy’s house because it will be safer. Buffy doesn’t recognize the house. She’s very confused when she sees photos of herself in casual clothes. She says she just wants to go home.

And we get a lovely Willow quote: “She couldn’t have dressed up like Xena?”

Cordelia’s Dialogue Holds Clues

From outside we hear Cordelia screaming. Xander goes out and lets her into the house. Willow assumes Cordelia won’t know who she is either. And she runs through this thing, saying, “You’re name is Cordelia. You’re in high school. We’re your friends. Well, sort of.”

And Cordelia is irritated because she knows exactly who she is. She is not confused at all. She doesn’t know what’s wrong with Willow. And she’s complaining about how her costume got ripped and Party Town probably won’t give her deposit back.

This dialogue is such a great example of working in a detail that the characters will later need. Willow will use it to help figure this all out. And it’s done in a way that seems very natural. It comes in through Cordelia’s character. It’s exactly what we would expect from Cordelia. She’s upset about her costume getting ripped and not getting her deposit back. Not about monsters chasing her.

So we get that little detail about Party Town.

And this is a great way to do it if you are writing a mystery. Or anything when you need to weave in clues for the reader or for your main character to figure out without making it obvious that’s what you’re doing.

Vampires Are Scary

We see Spike roaming the streets with a group of monsters, saying how this is just neat.

Willow goes to the library to try to research and get help from Giles. She startles him by walking in through the wall.

Angel comes to Buffy’s house. Buffy and Xander have no idea who he is, and Cordelia tries to explain it.

The lights go out. Cordelia and Xander go upstairs or maybe to the basement to check the electrical panel. And Buffy goes with Angel into the kitchen. The back door is open. A monster attacks. Angel vamps out. Buffy screams and runs out the door.

Three-Quarter Turn In Halloween

This happens about 31 minutes in, so it is roughly three quarters through our episode. This is usually where we see another major plot point. It typically grows from the Midpoint and spins the story in yet another direction.

Here, I think it is Buffy running out the door, despite that she is not quite herself. She makes that choice, and it comes from that reversal at the Midpoint. That costume that turns her into this noblewoman who is no longer the Slayer and doesn’t have a memory of that. So of course she is frightened when she sees Angel show his vamp face, and she runs.

Another Twist

We also get a twist, or movement of the plot, in that Giles and Willow start to figure out what’s happening. Also a nice quote from Giles, but it does inadvertently make Willow feel bad.

She says something about she’s having trouble turning the pages. Because she’s a ghost, she can’t move the pages. And Giles looks at her and says, “The ghost of what exactly?”

Willow becomes self-conscious again and again crosses her arms over her bare stomach. Something she had not been doing since she realized she was a ghost. We have not seen her have any self-consciousness about how she looks her or what she’s wearing because she’s been focused on helping and saving people. On solving the problem. Now suddenly she feels awkward again.

Costumes As Clues

This line isn’t here just to make Willow feel bad, though. It propels a conversation that leads to solving the problem. Because Willow says, “This is nothing. You should see Cordelia’s costume. It’s a unitard with all these cat things.”

Giles is worried. He says, “She became an actual feline?”

And Willow says she didn’t. And they figure out that Cordelia got her costume at Party Town, but everyone they know of who changed into their costumes bought them at a new place. Ethan’s.

This is 32 minutes and also turns the story. We don’t realize it yet, but the name Ethan’s means something to Giles.

Searching For Buffy

Angel, Xander, and Cordelia are on the streets looking for Buffy. So this is that new direction to the plot, this new part of the episode, where they have to find Buffy and protect her.

One of them, maybe Xander, says Buffy will be okay.

And Angel says, “No, Buffy would be okay. But now she’s helpless.”

Spike overhears this and tells the other monsters all they have to do is find Buffy first.

Giles Confronts Ethan

Giles and Willow go to the new costume shop. It is dark, and they find the statue of Janus with the face on both sides. Giles explains it represents a division of self. Male and female, light and dark.

Ethan walks out of the shadows and says, “Chunky or creamy. Oh, sorry, that’s peanut butter.” And he calls Giles by his first name, Rupert. Giles tells Willow to leave. He’s very intense about it, so she does.

And we get this back-and-forth:

Giles: Hello Ethan.

Ethan: Hello Ripper.

This is the first time we have heard, Giles called Ripper. And it is this hint about Giles’ past and raises the first of several story questions about Giles and Ethan. Those are in there, I think, to keep the viewers coming back for future episodes and to make us wonder about Giles.

Pirates And Good Vampires

Our group finds Buffy just as Larry, who dressed as a pirate and now is a pirate, is trying to assault Buffy. Xander grabs him punches him out. Buffy is afraid to go anywhere with Angel and Cordelia because she says Angel is a vampire.

And this is kind of funny because Cordelia still doesn’t believe that’s true. She says to Angel, “She’s got this thing where she thinks – forget it.” And she turns to Buffy, she can play along, and says, “Angel’s a good vampire. He would never hurt you.”

Buffy is sort of reassured. She goes with them. They want to find somewhere to hide. And they go to what I can only imagine is one of many, many sort of creepy giant deserted warehouses in Sunnydale.

Xander says he has a weird sense of closure after beating up that pirate.

What They Wished For

Back to Ethan and Giles. Ethan says, “What, no hug?” And asks if Giles isn’t pleased to see his old mate. Ethan also says the spell is the very embodiment of be careful what you wish for.

This made me think about Willow. Willow didn’t wish to be a ghost, but she did wish to be hidden or invisible. The Janus statue, that idea of the division of self, really fits here.

On the one hand, I see Willow as wanting attention. Specifically, she has wanted Xander’s attention, but I think she has gotten past that. Or accepted that that isn’t going to happen. Xander really saw her and knew her, but we get the feeling she doesn’t feel like anyone else does. And she simultaneously wants attention and wants people to see her, and yet feels very uncomfortable about that and invisible.

So in her two costumes we get both sides of that and her conflicting desires.

Xander’s wish is more clear. He wanted to be strong and able to fight and feel manly. So he became a soldier. Which for him is the epitome of manliness. We saw in the pilot that Xander equated not being able to fight vampires the way Buffy did with not really being a man.

And Buffy is also is very clear. She wants just for a little while to be a girl who thinks about nothing but gowns and looking pretty and balls and romance. That is something that has been she feels taken away from her. So her character completely embodies that.

Giles And Ethan Fight

Giles tells Ethan the spell is brutal and it harms the innocent. Ethan taunts him about being the protector of all things pure and good and how it’s quite a little act Giles has going. And Giles protests that it’s not an act.

But Ethan says that these kids have no idea where Giles came from.

Giles then punches Ethan when he refuses to end the spell. We don’t see all of it. But as we shift back-and-forth from Ethan and Giles to Buffy and her friends, we get the feeling that Giles is really beating up Ethan.

Ethan’s lying on the floor and it’s pretty clear Giles has been kicking him. Anthony Stuart Head plays this really ominous and forbidding.

Story Questions

When I first saw this episode, it really made me wonder about what sort of dark past Giles had. And whether he was fooling everybody. He certainly seems to be on Buffy’s side and helping her, but we don’t really know that much about him.

Which is a great way to keep your readers or viewers wondering. And wanting to find out the rest of that story, even when the main plot in a particular episode, installment of your series, or even a chapter ends.

The Climax Of Halloween Begins

We’re now reaching the Climax at about 38 minutes in. So this will resolve the main plot.

Spike and the monsters break into the warehouse. The monsters are able to subdue Angel and keep him restrained. That seems a little unlikely. Given what we’ve seen of Ange so far, he is stronger than this. But it is a great example of how as a viewer I’m willing to choose to believe for the moment that these monsters can hold Angel back because I want to see what happens.

Buffy is crying as Spike pushes her down on a table or counter. He grabs her hair, and he’s ready to bite her.

Willow tells Xander, “That one you can shoot.” Because she has been restraining him from shooting at any of the monsters.

We switch to Ethan and Giles. Giles has finally beaten Ethan enough, or Ethan is just ready to end this game. He tells Giles he can break the spell by breaking the Janus statue.

Giles does just that. It shatters.

Buffy’s Back

We flip back to Xander, who is trying to shoot his gun. But it has turned back into a toy. Buffy’s black hair in Spike’s hand turns back into a wig. So Spike is left holding this wig and is very startled. Buffy pops up and says, “Hi, honey, I’m home.:

The two of them fight. Buffy says, “You know what? It’s good to be me.”

Spike runs away.

So this is our Climax. We get Giles being the one to end the spell. He prevails over Ethan and breaks the statue. Buffy has her fight with Spike and repels him. And they’re all able to turn to those monsters back into kids.

Falling Action Begins

At 39 minutes 40 seconds in we start our Falling Action. This is where we tie up the loose ends of the plot. And there is quite a bit here to tie up.

Buffy and Xander both remember what happened. Xander says it was creepy, like he was there but he couldn’t get out. Buffy agrees. Cordelia starts talking with the two of them, but Angel comes up to ask how Buffy is. Angel and Buffy walk away.

Cordelia says she thought she was talking and it was like they didn’t hear her. Xander tells her she’ll never get between the two of them. He knows.

I like this because it suggests that Xander is building on what happened in Inca Mummy Girl and Reptile Boy, as he is gradually excepting Angel as part of their group. He doesn’t like Angel, but he is with Buffy. That’s how it is. And he can joke around a little bit about it.

They look around for Willow, but she’s not there.

Willow’s New Confidence

Willow is now lying on the porch. And she is in her ghost costume, just as she was when she staggered back and fell. She struggles to stand starting to take the sheet off. Then she suddenly looks very awkward and nervous again and starts to pull that sheet down over her body.

Next, we have this wonderful moment where Willow kind of freezes and shrugs. It’s  like she collects herself, and maybe realizes that she’s been walking around without the sheet and doing all these things and it’s been fine.

So she takes it off. She walks down the stairs and drops the costume onto the railing and leaves it behind.

Alyson Hannigan is such an amazing actress because we of course can’t get in to Willow’s head in a TV show. And yet I feel like I did. Because of Hannigan’s body language and her movements and how she plays it. I’m sure also some credit goes to the director, Bruce Seth Green, for that. And likely to the writers as well, as I’m sure those motions were in the shooting script.

A Hook As Oz Sees Willow Again

Willow is looking very confident as she walks down the street. A van drives up. It has black and white zebra stripes all over it and Oz is driving. Willow crosses right in front of him. And he says, “Who is that girl?”

And that is our little hook and the tiny continuation of Willow and Oz.

Buffy and Angel are in her bedroom. He asks why she thought he’d like her better looking like a noblewoman. She’s wearing her sweats, and I think a tank top. Casual clothes. And she says she wanted to be a real girl. The kind of fancy girl that Angel liked when he was her age. He tells her he was bored by those girls. He always wished he could have someone exciting. Interesting. And they kiss.

Is Ethan A Game Changer?

Now we get the last part of the Falling Action. It is daylight. Giles goes to the costume shop. It’s now deserted. The glass counters are empty. There are dress racks with nothing on them. And there is a note on the counter. It says, “Be seeing you.”

And that is the end of the episode. So it ends with not a cliffhanger – because we did resolve our main plot – and maybe not even a game changer.

I talked about this before. A game changer changes the whole world after you resolve main plot. So it sets up that things are different from now on. We don’t quite have that here because we don’t know if this is going to change the world. But it is a little hook to say what is the deal with Giles and Ethan? And it tells us we will probably see Ethan again.

Character Arcs In Halloween

One of the things I love in this episode is how well it handles multiple story and character arcs. It’s clear that Buffy is the protagonist, even though you could argue that Willow has the strongest emotional arc here.

Buffy realizes that Angel loves her for who she is. And she doesn’t need to be someone else. She doesn’t need to fulfill some idea she thinks he has, or her own idea, of what being a real girl is.

Willow goes from truly being afraid to be seen, afraid to get attention, to feeling confident showing who she is. And also being able to be different ways at different times. I still think she would wear that same costume to the cultural dance though it covers her up because she was trying to really go with the theme of the dance. But she now also can dress in a different way. She can wear something she feels is sexy and feel okay with that. Feel good about it.

So she has really expanded.

Who Is The Protagonist?

Also it’s interesting that our protagonist doesn’t really save the day. Giles saves the day by figuring out it’s Ethan and breaking that statue. And Willow had a huge part in it. She’s the one who gave Giles the information he needed and who figured out that crucial distinction about the costume shops.

Yet Buffy is clearly the protagonist. The protagonist should be our main viewpoint character, and should have an active goal that she strives to reach. Also, she should have the most at stake if she loses.

Here, Buffy has all those things.

The Protagonist’s Viewpoint And Goal

She is our main viewpoint character. Yes, we spent some time in Willow’s point of view in particular, and a little bit in Giles’. But Buffy is the the one that we start out with, stick with, and keep coming back to.

She has an active goal. From that moment that she leaves the Bronze, she wants to be what she calls a real girl. She wants to be able to have fun and romance. And she actively pursues that and steals the Watchers Diaries. She chooses that dress that she thinks will make her look like that kind of girl she thinks Angel wanted. Just Halloween, she can be that girl who thinks about nothing but balls and gowns and romance.

So she pursues that and she becomes it. And she finds out it it’s not what she thought it would be. She actually learns that she is happy to be who she is and where she is, but she pursues the goal.

What’s At Stake For The Protagonist

Buffy she has the most at stake if she loses. What Willow had at stake is she could’ve not grown as a character. She could’ve stayed where she was.

Buffy could’ve died. Because as the Slayer when she becomes weakened she is the target. She’s the one Spike wants to take out.

The Trickster Antagonist

Ethan also is such an interesting antagonist.

He is the trickster archetype. Not necessarily inherently evil except that he doesn’t care if he creates chaos that hurts people. Evil in itself is not his goal. His goal is chaos. He likes to watch it. He delights in it.

This makes him a very interesting antagonist because we just don’t know what might happen. I feel like Ethan might’ve been just as happy if his chaos created problems in the demon world and they all killed each other. So it’s not that he is necessarily trying to kill human beings or hurt human beings. Or even as Giles says hurt the innocent.

Giles’ point is that hurting humans is the result. But Ethan’s goal could just be to confuse everyone. For him this is about creating that chaos.

Unanswered Questions

And he presents wonderful unanswered questions. We don’t need them answered for the plot, which is why it’s okay to leave them hanging out there. We don’t know at the end if Ethan knew that Giles lived in Sunnydale. he didn’t seem super surprised to see him. So I think the answer might be yes.

Did he know Buffy is the Slayer and Giles is her Watcher? Not clear.

Was his goal to draw Giles back in? Was he doing this in part to lure Giles to him? Maybe.

All these things create great questions not just about Giles but about Ethan.

That is it other than Spoilers. There are a few, so I hope you will stay around for them.

Buffy And The Art Of Story Season One – The Book

Before I get to that, a little bit of news. I did finally get the transcript of each episode of Season One posted on LisaLilly.com. So if you have a great desire to go back and see what was said about some particular thing in The Witch, for example, you can go to my website go through the transcript.

Also, if you have a friend, a writer who you think would find this podcast helpful, but that person prefers to read rather than listen, all those transcripts are there. They can read them. And I am compiling them into a book, Buffy and the Art of Story Season One with some sort of cool subtitle I have not yet figured out. But by the magic of time travel, perhaps by the time you are actually listening to this, it might be available.

Initially my plan is to release it for Kindle and paperback and then I may make it available on other platforms. If you know someone who you think might be interested, feel free to share that with them. Or if you just have a great desire to read all of the analysis of all the episodes. There will be a little bit of additional material. It isn’t only the transcripts. But that is the bulk of the book.

If you are not staying for Spoilers, I hope you will come back next Monday for Lie To Me.




And we’re back for Spoilers.

Darla In The Drawing

First, the drawing in the diaries looks a lot to me like Darla as we will see her in Becoming Parts One and Two, the Season Two finale. That’s where we get the flashbacks of how Angel became a vampire. The face in the drawing doesn’t necessarily look like Darla. But the hair, and particularly that dress and that style of it evokes for me that image of Darla.

Also, Angel tells Buffy that when he was her age he wanted to meet someone exciting, interesting. That is exactly how Darla seems to him. That’s what lures him into the alley when he sees this woman and he follows her.

It is the promise Darla makes a to show him the world or show him amazing things that drives him to trust her. To allow her to turn him into a vampire.

Cordelia Highlights What Buffy Lost

The Cordelia Buffy interaction also foreshadows quite a bit. Cordelia’s comments that Buffy may know all these things about demons but when it comes to dating Cordelia is the Slayer. This foreshadows an ongoing clash between the two of them.

I feel Buffy is much more aware of it than Cordelia. For Buffy, Cordelia in many ways represents what she lost when she became the Slayer. She doesn’t get to be the prom queen anymore. She doesn’t get to just think about flirting with boys and looking pretty. Instead, she has to slay vampires and save the world.

And you can argue that in many ways that has made Buffy a stronger and kinder person with more empathy for others. I like to think Buffy had most of those qualities anyway, but it certainly brought that out in her. I think Buffy appreciates that.

But she does mourn the loss of that life, and it creates some tension with Cordelia.

Does Cordelia Long To Be More Like Buffy?

Cordelia on her side often seems oblivious to that.

We saw in Out Of Mind Out Of Sight that she didn’t believe that Buffy was ever popular like her. Or at least she expresses that. I think she does believe it, and her putting Buffy down is in a way her reasserting her own position. As in, hey, this is what I’m good at, this is my world.

So I believe Cordelia has some amount of envy of Buffy. She will claim she doesn’t, and she will even say, “I’m not like Buffy,” more than once.

But I think part of Cordelia does want to be like Buffy. She wants to be able to fight. She wants to be part of the team against the forces of evil. Even as she denies it during the run of Buffy, later we will see her on Angel embracing that. And clearly being part of the team.

Spike And Dru

Spike and Dru – also tons of great foreshadowing there. When he is watching that video of Buffy and admiring her resourcefulness, the way she fights, Dru comes in. And she asks him if he loves her. This is such a strong hint of what is to come.

I’m sure I did not pick up on it at the time, but it really foreshadows our end of Season Two where Spike goes to Buffy for help against Dru and Angel.

Now he says, and I believe he means, that it’s because he wants Dru back. He is jealous of Angel and Dru, and he wants it back to just the two of them. Also, Spike loves the world. He doesn’t want the end of the world. He wants it to continue.

But I do think there is that continuing respect for Buffy. And later, I think Season Three, we learn that Dru feels that some of that choice he made was out of a feeling for Buffy. She ays something like Buffy in is in his head or Buffy is all around him. The Slayer is all around him. And Drusilla breaks up with Spike.

So this early moment with Spike studying Buffy, admiring Buffy, and Dru saying, “Do you love me?” (She says “Do you love my insides?” but she’s really asking, “Do you love me?”) is so telling.

Wishes In The Future

Here also, foreshadowing Season Three, is this idea of be careful what you wish for.

I find it so interesting that of our core characters, the high school ones anyway, the one who doesn’t get a wish fulfilled is Cordelia. And then next season we will get The Wish. Which is all about Cordelia’s wish being fulfilled and the terrible consequences of it.

I wonder if the writers knew that that was coming and that’s why Cordelia doesn’t get I wish here. Or maybe it was just more fun to have her still be herself.

Also at this point I don’t think Cordelia really has anything strong that she wishes for. She seems to be on top of her world.

In Season Three, there will be many things Cordelia wishes for. When her father’s in trouble with the IRS there’s no longer money for Cordelia. She can’t go to the colleges she got into. She can’t afford her prom dress. Everything goes wrong with Xander. And she makes that wish that Buffy never came to Sunnydale.

Here, I don’t know what wish we would’ve given her. And I’m happy we didn’t. I love the way this episode plays out. And I love that Cordelia will get an entire episode for her wish. The Wish is one of my favorite Buffy episodes ever.

Leading To The Dark Age

Finally, of course, Ethan and Giles. Not next week but the following week we will talk about The Dark Age. Where Giles’ past literally comes back to haunt him. And we will see Ethan again.

Many of these questions raised here will be answered in The Dark Age. Had we not had this back-and-forth with Ethan here, and this run in, I feel like The Dark Age would’ve come too much out of the blue. It would’ve felt more like the writers just decided to invent this back story for Giles, just to create more tension. It would feel like they just pulled it out of thin air.

This way it is really led up to and built up.

More On Ethan

One more thing about Ethan. I talked about him being the trickster. We will continue to see that about him in Band Candy, another of my favorite episodes.

There, Ethan basically gets paid to be a trickster. That has just go to be his idea of heaven. Because he’s part of this game. He’s paid to distribute this Band Candy that turns all the adults basically into teenagers and creates chaos. It’s like whatever your favorite thing ever to do is and someone is willing to pay you to do it.

And then down the road, of course, we will see him and Giles interacting. We think they are bonding, and probably they are, in Season Four. But that doesn’t stop Ethan from slipping something into Giles; drink that turns him into a demon. I look forward to talking about that. To talk about what Ethan’s motivations were. So much coming with Ethan. I really enjoyed him as villain.

Next Week And New DVDs

That is it for the Spoilers. I hope you will come back next Monday for Lie To Me. I’m really excited to watch it because for all the times I have rewatched Buffy in its entirety. I have not seen the full episode of Lie To Me. In my DVD set that particular DVD got corrupted pretty early on so that I have to skip certain scenes. Very small parts of scenes are missing, so I know what happened in them. It didn’t really spoil my experience of re-watching.

But for the podcast I want to make sure I didn’t miss anything. It was a terrific excuse to buy another Season Two set. (It turns out they’re exactly the same inside this many years later. Even the same art on each DVD. Same special features. But a new cover. If you want to see a comparison of the two of you can check it out on Instagram. I posted a photo of both of them. Instagram, just like Twitter, is @Lisa MLilly.

Thank you so much for listening and I hope to see you next Monday.

The podcast Buffy and the Art of Story is a production of Spiny Woman LLC, copyright 2020.