Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Fear, Itself   Rewatch 
August 5, 2015 9:51 PM - Season 4, Episode 4 - Subscribe

The gang attends a Halloween party where their worst fears are realized, in a much more character-driven way than Season 1's Nightmares. Don't taunt the fear demon. It's tacky.
posted by yellowbinder (11 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh how I love this episode. When Giles breaks out the chainsaw....oh it's just a fantastic moment.

"Big overture.....little show."
posted by miss-lapin at 5:18 AM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Xander: Who's a little fear demon? Come on. Who's a little fear demon?
Giles: Don't taunt the fear demon.
Xander: Why? Can he hurt me?
Giles: No, it's just tacky.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 7:08 AM on August 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


This is my favorite Halloween episode, which is a pretty high bar to clear.
posted by Etrigan at 7:14 AM on August 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, this is the best Halloween episode (with season 2 being a close second and season six being a Dawn episode). It's hard to analyze something this fun, but the episode does give us a bunch of messages about what the characters fear, and why. Again, people don't exactly turn into their costumes, but the costumes represent something about what the characters want, and each gets twisted in either and ironic or appropriate way. Most of them represent a need for control that doesn't wind up happening.

Buffy, Little Red Riding Hood, wants to go home again, but gets lost and feels abandoned. She's ultimately able to handle herself. Willow's new desire to lead and get serious with magic results in her almost being destroyed by light because of her indecision. Xander wants to be suave secret agent guy, but becomes invisible to his closest friends because he feels useless. Oz's "God" costume isn't meant to be serious, but as God he becomes unable to control the one thing he desperately wants to (his werewolf side), which is foreshadowing to what happens very soon ("don't leave me!"), and the reason he goes away (and ultimately can't return). Anya's ideas of fear show her to be an outsider (she wants to be scary, but she's comic relief instead).

Giles' sombrero...I've got nothing. It's just hilarious. Maybe a cultural disconnect, or the awkwardness of not currently having a place in the universe? (It's alive!) I enjoy that he gets to save the day and the episode closes with everyone hanging out at his place. I say "It's Giles! With a chainsaw!" far too often. It's a fantastic moment. (Especially when you think that his "I need to get some supplies together" naturally includes a chainsaw to "create a door," when we're all thinking it's going to be yet another spell.)

Mostly, nobody wants to be alone, and if there's something this show likes to tell us, it's that going it alone is always a bad plan.

Fantasia vs. Phantasm!

Scaring Buffy while wearing a demon mask is generally a terrible idea.

Xander: That’s the funny thing about me, I tend to hear the actual words people say and accept them at face value.
Anya: That’s stupid.
Xander: I accept that.
(So many problems on television would be solved by people saying what they actually mean. So many.)

As a prof, I appreciate this exchange:
Riley: Well, I’m going to sit here and grade papers.
Buffy: Scary.
Riley: Very.

Mi casio es su casio is a terrible joke, but I kind of love it.

Giles' pause as Buffy destroys the Mark of Gachnar is ludicrously long.

Buffy: There is no problem that cannot be solved with chocolate.
Wilow: I think I'm gonna barf.
Buffy: Except that.

Gachnar reminds me of that character from The Phantom Tollbooth, The Demon of Insincerity, which tries to keep the main characters from escaping their pit by declaring how big and horrible it is, only to be revealed as a tiny creature.

Embarrassing confession: I had a crush on an awesome but *much* shorter than me guy in high school. His code name amongst my friends was Gachnar.
posted by ilana at 8:14 AM on August 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


One of my favorite episodes, period. This season has several extreme standouts considering the mehness of the over-arching plotline.
posted by phearlez at 9:25 AM on August 6, 2015


This is a brilliant episode.

I also really like the completely non-obvious scene with Buffy and Joyce, where Joyce talks about how she held herself apart even from making friends when they first got to Sunnydale because she was afraid of rejection. And I adore her off-handed comment about her last boyfriend having turned out to be a homicidal robot. Maybe it's because I am now closer to Joyce's age than Buffy's, but I really feel more kinship with her this time around.

Also the bit towards the end when Buffy gets to the top of the house and sees all the kids there, all trapped in their own worst nightmares by themselves, right along with everyone else in the room - there's something about that which really resonates for me.

Giles's entrance with chainsaw is a wonderful homage to Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which, if you have never seen it and think it's some horribly cheesy not-very-scary film, I encourage you to think again because it was terrifying and has had a major influence on horror.

And finally: bunnies scare me.
posted by Athanassiel at 9:44 PM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I also really like the completely non-obvious scene with Buffy and Joyce, where Joyce talks about how she held herself apart even from making friends when they first got to Sunnydale because she was afraid of rejection. And I adore her off-handed comment about her last boyfriend having turned out to be a homicidal robot. Maybe it's because I am now closer to Joyce's age than Buffy's, but I really feel more kinship with her this time around.

Yeah Joyce doesn't have much to do this season, but her individual scenes are really great.

So I'm going to be a bit of a party pooper with this episode, in that I remembered it being better than it turned out being. My key issue with this episode is that the demon is like, the worst demon ever. It's not just that it's played for a gag, it's that in plot terms, the demon makes everyone face their fears. And then turns them off. Why? Why does he do that? No-one actually faces their fears, they actually just stop. Also, while Buffy and Xander's fears were well realised, I felt like Oz's was pedestrian and Willow's wasn't very spot on (is her biggest fear really her magic failing rather than being left behind by Buffy?)

Buuuut it is pretty good in spite of that. The gags are really funny, and this is consistent throughout 4: I think it's probably the funniest, most light hearted season of them all (Marti Noxon says on several commentaries that when Buffy was sad, ratings went up, so thats why Season 6. This is the worst reasoning that ever reasoned, but never mind). It's certainly a lighter patch in a shaky start.

-Willow speaks gaelic??
-"Actual size"
-"Technically speaking you're a fifth wheel"
-If Oz had worn the God costume during Ethans Halloween, what would have happened?
-I'm impressed that both Oz and Xander are in the room when the creepy sigil is made. Seriously, "Oz and Xander, terrible demon hunters!" is a show I would watch
-Oz is worried about Willow getting power. This is a plot arc that gets transferred to Tara.
-The gang are super late for the party I guess, as everyone else is already there
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:05 AM on August 7, 2015


-Willow speaks gaelic??
Ha, yes, I guffawed when Buffy asked her if she could translate. Sure, no probs! Because clearly, since Willow is a redhead, and many Irish people have red hair, Willow is Irish and when she started learning witchcraft, as a REDHEADED IRISH WITCH of course she INSTANTLY KNEW how to speak Gaelic!

Actually, it's unclear whether it's Irish or Scots Gaelic, but fortunately red hair is common amongst both populations. I am not sure what Giles has going for him though, unless it's a moment of well, you're on the same island, you must know how to speak each other's languages nonsense.
posted by Athanassiel at 12:53 AM on August 7, 2015


as a jewish REDHEADED IRISH WITCH of course she INSTANTLY KNEW how to speak Gaelic!

Fixed. I assumed she learned it from studying the Talmud in its original gaelic.
posted by phearlez at 7:38 PM on August 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thanks, I wasn't quite sure how to work the Jewish thing in. I considered something about lesbian-waiting-to-happen and being a cunning linguist but thought that might be too much of a reach.
posted by Athanassiel at 4:59 PM on August 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


-If Oz had worn the God costume during Ethans Halloween, what would have happened?

He would have become a fictional character, because Joss Whedon.
posted by Strange Interlude at 5:32 PM on August 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


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