Saturday, 20 November 2010
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 1, Episode 10 'Nightmares'
Is it weird that I think she still looks cute all vamped? Xander did.
Writer: David Greenwalt (story by Joss Whedon)
Director: Bruce Seth Green
What's the sitch?
The people of Sunnydale's nightmares start coming true. Buffy, Giles, Willow and Xander are forced to confront their greatest fears while trying to discover what's causing this madness and then stopping it before nightmares engulf the world. The answers they seek may well be linked to a small boy laying comatose in the hospital after being found beaten unconscious. The very same small boy Buffy has been seeing in her nightmares and who's constantly running away from a hideous monster that wants to hurt him.
What's the sitch beneath the sitch?
This episode is about dealing with the intense psychological trauma caused by abuse. The little boy, Billy, was bullied and then beaten unconscious by an adult. As a result, he suffered deep physical and psychological trauma. The Hellmouth allows Billy to share his inner trauma and fear with the rest of the town by making them all live out their own personal terrors.
Who's giving us the wiggins this week?
Plenty. The Master pops up to taunt Buffy. There's a plague of spiders, Xander is chased by an evil knife wielding clown and Billy is continually chased by a scary club handed monster known as the Ugly Man.
Why it rocks
1. The concept. It's a hoary old story made fresh and genuinely creepy and also rather moving by some great writing, great directing and some top notch acting especially from Sarah Michelle Gellar.
2. The horror. While some of the nightmares are funny (Xander walking in to class almost naked, Cordy being a chess club nerd), others are properly freaky such as Xander's homicidal clown chasing him with a big knife.
3. The emotional horror. The single most awful nightmare in this episode (and one of the series most heart wrenching scenes) is where Buffy's dad (Dean Butler) picks her up from school for the weekend but then sits her down and tells her he doesn't want to see her anymore as it's all her fault that he and Buffy's mother got divorced and that Buffy is such a huge disappointment to him. Part of the reason this scene works so horribly well is because it comes out of the blue and is played so matter of factly by Buffy's dad. But it's SMG who truly sells it. Watch her face as she hears all of this casual cruelty coming from the lips of her dad, someone Buffy plainly adores. Heartbreaking stuff.
4. Vampire Buffy. Another of Buffy's greatest fears (shared by Giles as it turns out) is Buffy being vamped. Seeing Buffy in full-on vamp face is still pretty darn cool to this day.
Why it sucks
1. We presume the Hellmouth is somehow responsible for Billy being able to do what he does but it is never properly explained, though Giles has a brave go.
2. When Buffy becomes a vampire she somehow stays her old self and can control her blood hunger. Oh, and at the end when she's fighting in the hospital hallway she is going in and out of sunlight without turning all burny.
SMG acts her little socks off in the scene with Buffy and her dad. If you aren't moved then you aren't human.
Dialogue to die for
Xander (happily following a trail of candy bars): “Someone else's loss is my chocolatey goodness.”
And another thing
This is the first time we see Buffy's dad in the show. And although his treatment of Buffy in this episode is from her nightmare, the pair eventually do become estranged with Hank Summers not even coming to Buffy's mothers funeral or contacting his daughter to offer her help. So this episode is actually rather telling. Effectively Giles becomes the true father figure to Buffy from here on out.
How many stakes?
What a nightmare! 3.5 (out of 5)