Pick of the Week – October 20-26, 2014

We’re continuing with our month of Halloween-themed Picks of the Week.  This week we’re delving back into the subject of my very first Pick of the Week: Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Considering the show’s was constantly dealing with vampires, demons, and other creatures, it would seem almost pointless to do a Halloween episode.  Wasn’t everyday Halloween in Sunnydale?

Not so much, as it turns out.  Buffy produced three Halloween-themed episodes over the course of its seven seasons.  This week’s pick is the first of the group, Season Two’s creatively-titled “Halloween.”  The script is credited to Carl Ellsworth, a freelance writer who was not on the show’s staff.  This surprised me at first considering how true the episode is to the characters and how many major plot and character elements are introduced (Ethan Rayne and “Ripper,” for example.).  However, a little Googling reveals that the script was heavily rewritten by Buffy creator Joss Whedon and that, based on article in his hometown newspaper, Ellsworth says that the script was taken away from him and that he was basically fired.  As many of the Buffy writers have said over the years, it was not uncommon for Whedon to take on rewrite duties or make additions to the script.

That behind-the-scenes gossip aside, “Halloween” is a very entertaining standalone episode that also works quite well for new viewers.  In the first few minutes of the episode, all of the main characters are quickly established, which is important, since the plot centers around Halloween costumes that turn the wearer into whatever costume they’ve chosen.  Trick-or-treating is a bit more harrowing when the little monsters that show up on your doorstep are actual monsters.

With our usual heroine, Buffy, sidelined by magical means, it falls on Alyson Hannigan’s Willow Rosenberg to take charge and figure out what is going on, something the very shy Willow is not comfortable doing.  The other main characters, particularly Anthony Stewart Head’s Giles, get their moments to shine.  Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fans will recognize Armin Shimerman as Principal Snyder (Or maybe not, since he’s out of his usual Ferengi makeup.  Shimerman was working on both shows in the late 90s.), and the episode marks one of Seth Green’s first appearances as Oz.  He would later become a series regular.

If you’re looking for a quick bit of Halloween fun without worrying about a ton of series backstory, this episode of Buffy should work nicely.

- Alan Decker

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