Monday, October 31, 2011

"Fear Itself" (Buffy 4.4): Spines tingle and gooses bump!

This Halloween episode is a season highlight for me! The fractures in the Scooby gang are becoming too obvious to ignore, especially if you're a Fear Demon who didn't get the memo about baddies skipping Halloween. Here's the Buffy guide to surviving a house haunted by your own deepest insecurities. It's more amusing than it seems.

DO remember that the scariest stories are the ones we believe about ourselves.
Season 2's Halloween episode, cleverly entitled "Halloween," is referenced a couple of times in "Fear Itself." Year before last, Ethan Rayne (haven't seen the last of him yet) awesomely turned everyone into their costumes. Whereas that episode explored what happens when what we put on the outside becomes real, this show makes manifest what our gang feels like on the inside. Xander fears that his townie status makes him irrelevant to his co-ed pals, so he becomes invisible.
Invisibility is difficult to represent visually. Xander's freak-out face will have to suffice.

Willow suspects that she's a crappy witch and a second banana to Buffy, so she loses control of a spell and has to run off looking for help.
One little light goes in her mouth. It's unaccountably disturbing.

Oz is afraid that he'll lose control of his inner werewolf, hurt Willow, and have to abandon her, so he, well, turns into a werewolf, scratches Willow, and abandons her.
Pictured: Oz's safe place.
Buffy is scared that she will lose everyone she loves, and won't be able to save them when they need her, so she gets separated from her friends, and only hears their screams as she battles demons alone.
Little Red Riding Hood's track record isn't so great either--just ask Grandma.

DON'T underestimate this show's capacity to make a trite life lesson immensely entertaining. . .
When the Fear Demon makes his appearance, he's minuscule and therefore impotent to hurt any of the gang. See what they did there?
Sure it's a cliche, but trust me, the show makes it funny as hell.

OR more complicated than it first appears.
With the exception of Xander, each character eventually sees a version of the fear they encounter in this episode become literal outside the haunted frat house. Willow does lose control of her powers in season 6, Oz will hurt Willow and leave her in a few short episodes, and Buffy isn't able to save a very important person she loves next season.
To alleviate the sadness invoked by that last point, I give you Giles's Halloween costume.

DO honor what is truly frightening in this episode. 
Riley's back.
Nice hair, jackass.

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