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10 August 2016 @ 02:40 am
Fear Itself: always read the fine print.  
It's a Hallowe'en episode, the time when nothing evil stirs. So Giles always claims. You'd think he'd learn.

Things are being hacked to bits. Xander looks concerned.


Fortunately, it's only a pumpkin. Oz and Xander feel it's emotionally judgemental, but Buffy is taking the pumpkin's fate to heart. Grow up in the sun - happily entwined with others, then someone comes along, cuts you open and - rips your guts out. Cheerful stuff. I understand her feelings; this is a Spikeless episode.

Plans are made for Halloween. No hippos in tutus, however, but party time at a frat house. The Scoobies are concerned about Buffy's general air of post-Parker gloom, but she doesn't want a companion - who might have spotted that the demon she attacked was actually a small child.

Willow is keen to expand her magical skills. Oz is worried that she might get hurt. Foreshadowing, much? Oz knows what it's like to have power he can't control. Also muchly with the foreshadowing. Still, they are sweet together.


Anya wants to talk relationships, but Xander is bemused. He suggests she join them at the party, if she can find a scary costume. As an ex-demon she must know of something sufficiently frightening.

Everyone is preparing for Halloween, but Buffy needs a distraction. Seeing Parker all jolly with friends has made her not-hungry, so she goes to see Giles. Not necessarily the best of ideas.


And he isn't even much help over finding an excuse to ditch the party. Creatures of the night tend to ditch Halloween. They find it all much too crass. Buffy has to woman up and plan to party.

At the frat house plans progress.


Buffy meets the scariest monster of the episode.


And Oz has a little accident with a mystical symbol.


It's always blood, you know.

Blood-red cape, as it happens, as Joyce to the rescue sorts Buffy out with a costume. Little Red Riding Hood is at least a more practical heroine than Miss Southern Belle of S2.


Willow worried Buffy would back out, but four Scoobies meet ready to go to the party. All have clearly taken into consideration what happened last time, and come as resourceful people. Or, in Oz's case, deity.



They enter. Things are not going quite as smoothly as a party-planner might hope.




However, it all seems very quiet. Too quiet. And the special effects don't convince much.


Until they do. Real blood on the floor and real bats. Which turn to rubber.


And when Anya arrives, in possibly the most wonderful scary costume ever, the house itself is covering doors and windows with bricks.


Inside things are getting creepier.



So of course our heroes split up, despite Willow's very sensible suggestion that they should get the heck out of there. Still, at least Buffy's armed. Xander is isolated, then Willow is afraid Oz might leave her.



Willow had something else to be afraid of from Oz.


All alone, the Scoobies endure what they are really scared of. Willow's magic goes horribly wrong and Oz has no control of his body and Xander encounters terrifying people.




And Buffy is attacked by the dead. Just for a change.


Giles and Anya to the rescue at last - and the second truly glorious moment of the episode as he creates a door with a chain-saw he just happened to have in his apartment.


Buffy finds her way out of the cellar and then finds the other Scoobies, who gradually find themselves. Some interesting signs of cracks in the team here, though.


And they are all in the room with the pentagram on the floor, and "release me" is heard. (Not the song, thank heavens.) And then, at last, Giles and Anya arrive. With a chainsaw. There can never be too much of Giles with a chainsaw.



Giles identifies the monster and a series of silly mistakes occur because nobody read the instructions carefully first.


The demon Gachnar is less scary than anyone, including Gachnar himself, had thought.



He's cute. But taunting him is tacky.


He taunts Buffy, though. Bad mistake. One stamp from the Buffy boots and he's a squished former demon.

And chocolate soothes everyone. Giles has a lot of it to get rid of. But he checks out the reference manual and sees the key term.


"Actual size."



An episode with some images that will stay with you. Eyeballs in and out of skulls. Giles in a sombrero and Anya in a bunny suit. All the Scoobies assailed by very real fears. This is all about the need to face up to what scares you, because it will always be much worse in your imagination than it is in real life. A nice, simple metaphor carried through very effectively, and some wonderful comic moments.

At the same time, though, those fears can't be stamped out as easily as Buffy stamps out Gachnar. Yes, as a team they can defeat the demon; but for that they have to stay together and work as a team. It's far too easily for that to happen and we are seeing the signs here. Xander feels deeply insecure as the one non-college-guy of the group; he responds to imagined criticisms with attack before they happen. Oz loses control of his violent, monstrous inner self as soon as the adrenaline starts to rush. It's the demon influence, not the moon's, but his biggest terror is that he will not be able to control himself at any time. And Willow depends on him so much - it's a joke that he's "God", but she's needy. And her magic, out of control too, from being a help becomes an attack in itself, while she is angry at the very thought of being a "sidekick" - she wants her own power and to use it. And Buffy, alone with the dead people, her vocation made concrete, and a reminder that normality cannot be for her. Giles, trying to keep up with American ways, but just looking like a lonely older man. Anya, and bunnies, the gift that will never stop giving.

Many of these inner fears will resurface, and soon, and some of them will become toxic in the short and in the longer term. Hallowe'en is no joke for those who live on the edge of darkness.


So, do you like or even love this episode, or consider it just a silly MOTW? Do you love Giles in the hat more than Anya in the bunny suit? Is the chainsaw the single most awesome weapon we ever see? And do the dead people wake up once the monster has gone? How is this chaos explained away? Let's have your ideas, comments and gripes/praise. It's been great to see so much discussion in comments since we returned - do, please keep it up.

All caps as before from Screencapped.net.

Trepkostrepkos on August 10th, 2016 07:53 am (UTC)
I am REALLY unclear about whether anyone died or not - I hope someone can find evidence to convince me either way. I LOVE Giles in a sombrero, which he totally redeems with the chainsaw. I LOVE Oz's costume! And Anya's! But I only have more questions - no answers - eg. did it have to be werewolf blood to wake the Fear Demon? And where did all the anger in "I'm not your sidekick!" come from? Willow was happy to be a Slayerette before ...
Shapinglight: Fear Itself Gilesshapinglight on August 10th, 2016 01:55 pm (UTC)
And where did all the anger in "I'm not your sidekick!" come from? Willow was happy to be a Slayerette before ...

I think it must stem from her fear that Buffy's sidekick is all she really is, and she'll never amount to more. The misfiring magic certainly wouldn't help in that regard.

This is probably where I should confess that I haven't had time to rewatch this episode. At which point in it does she say that?
Trepkostrepkos on August 10th, 2016 02:16 pm (UTC)
Just before they all split up:
Willow: “Being the Slayer doesn’t automatically make you boss. You’re as lost as the rest of us.”
Oz: “What are we talking about?”
Willow: “It’s a simple incantation, a guiding spell for travelers when they become lost or disoriented.”
Buffy: “And how does it work?”
Willow: “It conjures an emissary from the beyond that – lights the way.”
Buffy: “Conjuring. Will, let’s be realistic here. Okay, your basic spells are usually only fifty-fifty.”
Willow upset: “Oh yeah? Well, - so is your face!”
Willow walks off while Buffy tries to figure out what that meant: “What?! (Walks after Willow) What does that mean?”
Willow turns around: “I’m not your sidekick!”
Willow stomps out. Oz runs after her. Buffy stands there and sighs.
Shapinglight: Fear Itself Gilesshapinglight on August 10th, 2016 03:47 pm (UTC)

To be fair to Willow, I think Buffy was quite rude there. And Willow is obviously feeling quite defensive.
Trepkostrepkos on August 10th, 2016 04:19 pm (UTC)
True - I wonder what brought THAT on?
Shapinglight: Fear Itself Gilesshapinglight on August 10th, 2016 07:10 pm (UTC)
True - I wonder what brought THAT on?

Maybe she's still got a bit of soul missing?
Dannachasingdemons on August 11th, 2016 04:41 am (UTC)
My interpretation is that the magics in the house caused them to become paranoid and over-react to each other or to their own insecurities. I agree Willow was happy to be a slayerette, but there may have been moments where she felt it got in the way of her coming into her own. Also, just prior to that, in the cafeteria, both Buffy and Oz weren't very supportive of her perusing magic - much to her dismay.
Shapinglight: Fear Itself Gilesshapinglight on August 11th, 2016 09:13 am (UTC)
Ah, thanks for that. As I said, I didn't have time to rewatch the episode.
Shapinglight: Chainsaw Gilesshapinglight on August 10th, 2016 01:52 pm (UTC)
I also am unclear whether anyone actually died in this episode. It certainly looked like it, yet no one ever said for sure.

That apart, I think it's a great episode. Not only does it set up later conflicts in the season, but it has Giles and Anya in silly costumes, and Giles with a chainsaw, which would be worth watching the episode for even if that was all it had to offer.
Double Dutchess: Real Men Drink Teadouble_dutchess on August 10th, 2016 05:36 pm (UTC)
Too bad the episode is Spikeless, but Giles with a chainsaw definitely makes up for it! In fact, it's a very enjoyable episode overall.
Shapinglight: Chainsaw Gilesshapinglight on August 11th, 2016 09:14 am (UTC)
It is, though the lack of Spike doesn't bother me, have to say. It manages just fine without him. Anyway, it being Halloween, he's probably sitting it out somewhere being bored.
slaymesoftlyslaymesoftly on August 10th, 2016 07:28 pm (UTC)
I remember less than nothing about this episode - except for Anya's costume, Giles and his sombrero and his chain saw, and that it took place at a party somewhere. So, some funny stuff, but it didn't make much of an impression on me. :) ETA - possibly related to lack of Spike-ness? I dunno. Now I'm wondering if I could rewatch it and find a way to tweak it Spuffy....

Edited at 2016-08-10 07:31 pm (UTC)
Shapinglight: Chainsaw Gilesshapinglight on August 11th, 2016 09:16 am (UTC)
It's a fun episode. When I rewatched last year I thought all three Halloween-themed episodes were terrific (though arguably the season 2 one is the best), even the rather disliked All the Way in season 6.

This one actually manages a few genuine chills, before the whole things collapses into the (well-earned) ridiculousness of the tiny fear demon.
Butterflysnogged on August 11th, 2016 03:51 am (UTC)
Yeah...this is really more of a funny-ish MOTW episode for me. I loved Giles with a chain saw. Anya in a bunny suit. Oz's costume always cracks me up. I also get a kick out of how tiny Gachnar is. I can definitely see them setting things up for Season 4. The gang does have to fall apart a little before they form the bond needed to destroy Adam.
Shapinglight: Fear Itself Gilesshapinglight on August 11th, 2016 09:18 am (UTC)
The gang does have to fall apart a little before they form the bond needed to destroy Adam.

Yes, and they have to start finding their own paths too. Willow certainly does that in season 4, though Xander not really until season 5.
Dannachasingdemons on August 11th, 2016 04:58 am (UTC)
I'm going to go on record in saying that any episode that takes place in a frat house has an element of "meh" for me. That being said, there were some good moments. Giles with a chainsaw topped the list, with Giles in a sombrero coming in second and Xander in his tux third.

Many moments where it was necessary to suspend belief (duh). The reaction I would not expect when Oz cuts his hand, is for him to shake it so that blood splatters on the floor. When the laws of physics are being broken down and windows and doors are disappearing, I would not expect a chainsaw to work normally.

Best line: Destroying the mark of Gachnar... Is NOT one of them and will in fact immediately bring forth the fear demon itself!

Edited at 2016-08-11 04:59 am (UTC)
Shapinglight: Chainsaw Gilesshapinglight on August 11th, 2016 09:19 am (UTC)
Best line: Destroying the mark of Gachnar... Is NOT one of them and will in fact immediately bring forth the fear demon itself!

Heh! Yes, I remember that line. It is indeed priceless, and one of the many examples of brilliant comic timing in the show.

Re: the frat house elements, agree that they don't do a lot for me. This particular frat house seems a little less stuffy than normal, perhaps, given that Oz knows the guys in it so well?

Edited at 2016-08-11 09:22 am (UTC)
Trepkostrepkos on August 11th, 2016 07:48 am (UTC)
I love the pumpkin conversation too!
Shapinglight: Fear Itself Gilesshapinglight on August 11th, 2016 09:20 am (UTC)
:Sigh: I wish I'd managed to rewatch it again. I do remember being far more impressed than I expected to be when I rewatched it last year.
freecat15: Fear Itselffreecat15 on August 11th, 2016 02:59 pm (UTC)
This is one of the episodes that didn't do much for me at first, but grew on me more on every rewatch. All the silly things like Sombrero-Giles, Bunny-Anya, the awesomeness that is Chainsaw-Giles, Oz as God and Xander as Bond, Little Red Riding Hood with stakes in her cake basket, Willow of Arc, not only prepared, but showing off what she would want to be seen like (just as Buffy told her in the s2 Halloween episode) - a hero of her own right and not only the side-kick - I love it!

I think Willow's anger stems from the time she realized how quickly a Slayerette can be discarded if a true equal (Faith) shows up. She sees her chance to be that in the use of magic, and expereinces it being distrusted, even dismissed again, by Buffy and Oz. The fear demon increases the lingering insecurities to fear, and as we know, fear leads to anger...

I love all the foreshadowing in this episode, group wise as well as character wise.

Great recap!
Shapinglight: Chainsaw Gilesshapinglight on August 12th, 2016 04:12 pm (UTC)
The fear demon increases the lingering insecurities to fear, and as we know, fear leads to anger...

Good catch. I think you have it right there.