This is part of a bi-weekly series concerning the characterization of Buffyverse characters. The first installment in this series can be found here. Arguably the best place to begin reading this series is at the beginning, but that is up to each reader. As a reminder this column will cover major and some minor characters from the shows Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) and Angel (1999-2004). Other Buffyverse media, such as the graphic novel Spike: Into The Light (2014) are not pertinent to this series. Also there will be no referencing real world events in this bi-weekly series.
This week: Halloween arrives and it (oddly) should be quiet for the slayer and her friends. However, friendships can lead to chaos on any day of the week.
(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)
Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) has two distinct personalities in this episode. The first is her real one. The second occurs during her time as a helpless noblewoman. While the noblewoman presents some interesting bits of dialogue, Buffy will seemingly forget this time of being helpless. (Much like how the noblewoman’s subtle change in speech is seemingly lost at points in this episode.) Also this episode keeps with the weird concept of Buffy being abnormal in a world where the supernatural and super science exists. Case in point: the speech Buffy gives Angel (David Boreanaz) about dating shows.
Angel, for his part, gets very little screen time in this episode. Yes, it is more than what Oz (Seth Green) gets, but it feels like Angel also serves no positive purpose here. In fact, one can say that his only true effect on this episode’s narrative is that he actively gaslights Buffy. He does so by lying about his past in a way that makes him sound like he comes from a financially well-off background. This, plus the lack of conversation with Buffy we see on screen up until this point, suggests that this romance is superficial — not to mention Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) actually makes him have his first genuine laugh and smile in the series.
Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon), like Buffy, gets multiple personalities this time around. Unlike Buffy, his style of speaking does not really see change much. Yes, he becomes more confident, but that is the only real departure. Well, that and understanding military tactics. We also get a throwaway line when Larry (Larry Bagby as Larry Bagby III) questions him about Buffy indicating that Xander is still in love with her. Xander also displays a sexist view of things after Buffy rescues him from Larry. Lastly, while under the spell, Xander seems more capable than Angel due to getting out of demonic clutches during the end fight.
Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) exhibits severe insecurity of her body. We see this happen when she puts the ghost costume over the makeshift clubber costume. Thus, she presumably avoids Ethan’s (Robin Sachs) spell fully effecting her when she becomes a ghost. After the spell she gets a sudden boost of confidence for seemingly no reason. Although, it is due to the spell forcing her to walk around in the makeshift outfit that she becomes confident. Willow being severely insecure about something will crop up again in later episodes. In theory, these insecurities tie into later problems she has, such as the magic addiction, but it doesn’t always work in practice.
Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) — alias Ripper — has about as much screen time as Ethan. Yet, both Giles and Ethan create an impact on both the plot and the revelation of Giles’s past. Giles’s actions, and Ethan’s reactions and remarks, suggest plenty of violence. Also we get a hint that this history features Giles as the more dominant personality of the two. Some fans, like fan fiction author Touchstoneaf, suggest that Ethan and Giles may have a longing for each other. Touchstoneaf even extrapolates in Chapter 38 of These Violent Delights that Ethan exhibits this via bad behavior which Giles feels the need to personally punish.
Cordelia Chase, Spike (James Marsters), Drusilla (Juliet Landau) are all supporting characters in this episode. Spike represents the physical threat the main group of good guys face. Cordelia provides important exposition and Drusilla acts as her opposite number via informing Spike about the spell. As far as character development for these three goes, only Drusilla truly gets any. Yet, this power of prophecy develops only through Spike and her talking about her vision of Ethan’s upcoming spell. Without this conversation, this development does not happen.
Larry, Oz, and Principal Snyder (Armin Shimerman) are pretty much plot device characters. All three are reoccurring characters, but in this episode, Larry is no more than an obstacle in Buffy and Xander’s friendship. This obstacle is oddly removed once Xander beats Larry up during the spell. Meanwhile, Oz gets further set-up to be Willow’s first true love interest. Lastly, Snyder is simply a way to set-up the trick-or-treating plot element that gets the gang to seek costumes.
Despite this episode trying to focus on new villain Ethan Rayne, it is rather a jumble of ensemble acting. Also, it is in some ways more of a Xander episode than a Giles episode due mostly to the difference in screen time. That said, it is definitely a good case study of how people (in this case Giles) might change with age.