Anyone who knows the Joss Whedon-constructed Buffy-verse knows that vamps and other ghouls kinda steer clear of the crass and commercial Halloween. Despite the supernatural distaste for the holiday, Buffy and the gang on Buffy the Vampire Slayer did tend to get into some sticky situations on All Hallows’ eve. It also made for some classic and, OK, not so classic episodes of television.
Only three seasons two, four and six featured Halloween episodes and here they are, ranked.
#3: “All the Way,” Season Six
Season Six of Buffy suffers from one too many throwaway episodes and “All the Way” is certainly one of them. The least memorable of the Halloween episodes, it’s also not a particularly good episode of the show. The main plot strays away from Buffy and company, who are celebrating Xander’s (doomed) engagement to Anya and focuses on her younger sister, Dawn, who gets her first kiss from a jock type at school. Only it turns out he’s a vampire. While that’s semi-interesting enough, the plot takes a huge, unwelcome detour through the toy-filled house of a senile older man the show wants you to think is the actual predator.
The episode does get points for featuring a midriff-bearing, pre-Yaya sisterhood Amber Tamblyn.
#2: “Halloween,” Season Two
OK, OK. You’re probably already yelling that this isn’t number one. The episode is a Buffy the Vampire Slayer classic. The plot finds Buffy, dressed as an 18th-century lady of leisure, and the gang turned into their actual Halloween costumes when Buffy uber-villain Ethan Rayne comes to town and tries to sew some chaos among Sunnydale residents.
This episode is the first time that Buffy seems to be in real danger. While she’s transformed into someone else, she’s lost her powers and doesn’t even know what a vampire (or a car, for that matter) is. Each of the actors also gets to have a lot of fun: Willow is a sexy see-through ghost, Xander gets turned into an army private and Cordelia just throws a lot of shade, as usual.
The episode is also able to intertwine two distinct yarns into one great episode. Buffy wants to change who she is to be able to impress Angel, her vampire soon-to-be lover, and gets to explore that urge on the one night a year where it’s OK to come as you aren’t.
#1: “Fear, Itself,” Season Four
While “Halloween” deals in a great narrative, “Fear, Itself” nabs the top spot by being able to handle multiple storylines and have a lot of fun. Set during the gang’s first year in college (and Xander’s first year in the real world), season four deals with the natural fears that creep into our minds as we are pushed out of the nest and into the unknown.
In the Buffy world, those fears manifest inside a cursed haunted house where your nightmares come to life. For Xander, that means the fear that his friends won’t notice him actually comes true. Willow’s spells go awry. And, just as Buffy is about to squash vertically-challenged demon Gaknar into the ground, he whispers, “They’ll all abandon you, you know.”
At the center of this show is a group of friends who evolve over time but stay a family. Seeing the group combat their own fears while working together to stay alive is the episode’s plot, but also a major series-long theme. This episode then becomes a microcosm for some of the series’ larger questions, all while embracing the breakneck scary-then-funny tone-hopping the show does so deftly.