Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Nightmares   Rewatch 
February 11, 2015 11:11 PM - Season 1, Episode 10 - Subscribe

Spiders, test anxiety, bad hair, beatings, clowns and absent fathers are only some of the horrors in the school halls as everyone's nightmares start coming true.
posted by yellowbinder (15 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The show will play around with fears/dreams/wishes/thoughts coming true many, many times in years to come, mostly much more successfully. Despite being based on nightmares which should be revelatory about our characters, this ends up being a fun yet ultimately forgettable installment.

Hank Summers is an interesting non-character on the show. Buffy's absent father is really only touched on a few times in the series, in fact only appearing in the flesh once (and twice in nightmares/hallucinations). It's blunt here because it's based on fears, but he really is basically a non-entity on the series. With few exceptions it's barely even commented on, but does inform Buffy and especially her relationship with Giles.

A few random notes:
That kid looks a little too much like the Anointed One for my liking.
I know we don't count Buffyvamp as an official Buffydeath, but I like to consider it an asterisk.
Not really a factor in this episode, but the dream theme does give me a chance to touch on Buffy's prophetic dreams. They're used in the first and second seasons, then drop off sharply. A device the show thought wasn't working?
Buffyvamp has one of the first successful combat witticisms which I really thought would kick in earlier - "There are a lot scarier things than you, and I'm one of them."
Cordelia again proves a background delight in the blink and you miss it scene where she's dragged screaming into chess club.
posted by yellowbinder at 11:34 PM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I like the dream logic of Xander following a trail of chocolate bars. I'm not sure if this is supposed to be illogical dream actions or just what Xander would do when presented with a trail of chocolate bars, and considering that it's Xander...
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:50 AM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, this is another one which is amusing mostly in how it echoes (can something echo if it precedes the thing it's echoing? Go with me here) later and greater episodes. I guess you could count Buffy being buried alive as foreshadowing, but it's seriously far ahead so I think it's just coincidence. Either that or they went back and played with it a bit to see if anyone would notice. Which I didn't, until now.

I do like the consequences of their nightmares remaining: Xander really was (almost) naked; Willow is wearing her opera costume. Fun. Even though it makes the eventual "and then he woke up" resolution even more annoying than it usually is.

I'm glad Xander punched that clown. I bloody hate clowns. And the spiders...
posted by Athanassiel at 4:59 AM on February 12, 2015

They definitely do these themes better later in the show, but nonetheless in my memory this is where the show starts to really feel to me like the show it's going to turn into. I like this one. Maybe mostly because absent-dad stories are a bit close to home for me.
posted by Stacey at 6:10 AM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

I guess you could count Buffy being buried alive as foreshadowing, but it's seriously far ahead so I think it's just coincidence.

Well, it is for literal event. Not in general.
posted by phearlez at 7:56 AM on February 12, 2015

That kid looks a little too much like the Anointed One for my liking.

I had the exact same problem! Its super confusing, especially early on. The Cordelia scene in the background is really funny, I had forgotten how much fun the show has with Cordelia throughout Season 1.

I actually always forget about this episode. Restless will actually rip some of these scenes off, but far more succesfully. I was trying to think why Restless works better than this one, which is pretty good but doesn't stick in the mind. I think its a combination of things. I don't think the show knows the characters well enough: both Xander and Willow's nightmares are profoundly uninteresting, and Giles' nightmare contradicts his later revealed background (sure, your nightmare is losing the power to read, not being hunted down by that demon you summoned, right?). Restless explores the characters background, while being very funny about it, and also jettisons a lot of chaff (any scene in season 1 where the Master makes a speech feels like a complete waste of time). I also think the rules of this epiosde aren't terribly well defined. Apparently defeating the chief nightmare will make all of them go away? Does that mean even the girl who was beaten was no longer beaten? It's also a bit of a scooby doo ending. Any why does Xander get to face his fear, but no-one else does?

Still, on the whole this is a lot of fun, and the show has a lot of good gags along the way, and even throws in zombies for good measure!

Stray observations

-Yeah the buried alive thing is interesting, and I had forgotten about it
-That Dad scene is really well done
-If I was in Buffy's school I would do my best to never be introduced to Buffy, because you can be guaranteed that you will be attacked by something in the next scene. Poor Wendell
-Xander looks ludicrously buff in his underwear.
-Xander and the chocolate bar trail is hilarious
posted by Cannon Fodder at 8:18 AM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Right there with you, Cannon Fodder. For some reason, this episode always seems to slip out of my brain. It definitely gets overshadowed by subsequent dream-focused episodes, where the delineation between the real world and dream world is a great deal more distinct.

I've also wondered why Buffy's dad never comes back into the picture, especially after what happened to Joyce later. Is it possible that he was retconned out by the same wave of magic that retconned Dawn in? I don't recall him even being mentioned after S02/S03 or so; That's something I'll have to pay attention to as we go along.
posted by Strange Interlude at 5:59 PM on February 12, 2015

Yeah I've always wondered about Buffy's dad. For him not even to call after Joyce died? Really? On the other hand, parents seem to be noticeably absent in Buffy. We never see the parents of Oz or Cordelia, etc we only hear Xander's mom, and no one seems thrown by the fact Anya has no parents.We do see brothers and sisters....a few times mothers, but almost never fathers. Willow's mother, while referenced more often than any parent other than Joyce only appears in one episode to my recall. Even Spike and Wesley have issues with absent parents.

I really enjoy how the show deals with fear, having characters confront what they fear most, but with a sense of humor. It's great they admit that Buffy is afraid of things even doing what she does-and her fear is so understandable. It would be easy to write her off as being unafraid as the chosen one, instead this episode highlights her vulnerability as well as the fact that what she does is a choice. She could give into fear. She faces it instead.
posted by miss-lapin at 6:15 PM on February 12, 2015

She could give into fear. She faces it instead.

Yup. I'l go on about this more when we get to the legitimately good Prophecy Girl, but Buffy Summers really is a hero in a quite classic sense of the word.

I think there's a throw away line about Buffy's dad in season 5 or 6 explaining him away. Parental figures are absent from this show, yes, or rather they are very unreliable, which is quite a classic staple of young adult fiction. In children's fiction parents often simply don't exist, or are wished away, while in young adult fiction, which Buffy definitely is, they are around, but not helpful (I'm thinking Hunger Games and Katniss' mother here). That's a little simplistic of course, because Joyce, although wrong headed (through no fault of her own) is a warm loving presence throughout the series, but Willow's mum is unsupportive and awful, and Xander's parents are borderline abusive.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:04 AM on February 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think there's a throw away line about Buffy's dad in season 5 or 6 explaining him away

There is (I'm coincidentally rewatching the show a couple of seasons ahead) and when Joyce gets sick, Buffy tries to call him, but he's "in Spain. With his secretary. Living the cliche!" and doesn't even call her back.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:23 AM on February 13, 2015

I do love that the show allows that Buffy isn't some unflappable perfect superhero. It occurs in the previous episode, but on topic here, Buffy wakes up her mom screaming in terror when the dummy is in her room, even having her mom check the sheets. We should expect a slayer to be invulnerable to fear; the fact that despite everything she's seen and defeated even at this early point she's still on some level a young girl who needs her parent to check for monsters is a really nice touch.
posted by yellowbinder at 5:38 PM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Her dad is actually mentioned quite a few times, if this guide is accurate.

Yeah, this is another one which is amusing mostly in how it echoes (can something echo if it precedes the thing it's echoing? Go with me here)

"Presages" is the word you're looking for!
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:49 AM on February 19, 2015

Another foreshadowing moment, in the library, Giles says "that would be a musical comedy version of this."

I don't think Willow singing, Xander being naked, any of that happened in reality. Once the kid wakes up, Xander and Willow revert to their pre-nightmare clothing.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 11:27 PM on February 20, 2015

"Presages" is the word you're looking for!
Not exactly; foreshadowing isn't right either. Echoes are caused by something else, they don't come first as a warning, or omen, or prediction. Chronologically, of course, this episode does come first, but the Restless dreams have such primacy (ha) that they make this first attempt seem like an echo. Maybe an echo back in time.

I don't think Willow singing, Xander being naked, any of that happened in reality.
It happened in that reality. If the kid had never woken up, they probably all would have died for realz. What I meant was that typically, when these kinds of dream incidents occur in shows (or in real dreams) the next thing is the waking up - one never has the consequences to deal with. In this, Xander really does need to go find some clothes to put on. Willow does stay in her opera costume. It was a nice touch, having the nightmare-come-true have some fallout that they actually need to manage before the eventual waking up makes it all go away.
posted by Athanassiel at 2:16 AM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

The fascinating thing with Buffy's dad is that, according to Joyce, he "adores" Buffy, which isn't hard to believe. Regardless of Buffy's insecurities on this matter, she is obviously easy to love, and a daughter a father would be proud of. Plus parental love should be a given, etc. etc. But it's easy to imagine that every time Buffy spends a weekend (or summer) with her dad, he is doting and adoring.

Her relationship with Joyce is a lot more complicated, with necessary lies and push-and-pull and mistrust and frustrations and rules handed down and disobeyed and all that jazz. But Buffy doesn't have this nightmare about Joyce, because for everything else Joyce's love for and pride in Buffy is an unmistakable fact of Buffy's world. Her dad has, at least in Buffy's eyes, abdicated any real responsibility in terms of dealing with her, and takes her in when doing so is easy and fun.

That informs that scene and ratchets it up to great, in my opinion.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:42 PM on October 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

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