First, allow me to show you a little vid I made for the purpose. It's pretty pointless and I will probably delete it later, but I looked on YouTube and it seems no one else had connected this music to this episode, so I had to.
There's one thing that really bothers me about this episode. No, there are probably several and I'll notice them as I continue to write. Anyway, let's just start with the first one: Sarah Michelle Gellar forgot how to act the moment Ethan Rayne's spell kicked in, and didn't remember again until it was broken. If there's one Whedonverse actor who should never be cast in a historical setting, I found her. (That's not fair, since this particular example was filmed so long ago, but it's a rant, just go with it.) Was her accent worse than Boreanaz's? Probably not, but here's a question: what kind of accent was it? If she transformed into a woman from Angel's past, why didn't she think she was Irish? Or if she did, well, that settles it. Definitely a worse accent than ol' Liam.
I can't imagine there's much else in the way of historical accuracy, either. The entirety of costume-bespelled-Buffy's personality seemed to be weakness, fear, and haughty concern for her appearance. That dress would not have fooled anyone. Her lines were just lame.
So my first reaction to this is to put my fanwanking muscles in gear. Why was Buffy such a lousy facsimile of an English(/Irish??) noblewoman? Well, maybe because she didn't know anything about the character she was playing. Her conversation with Willow gave us a rundown of her impressions of the type of woman she would try to emulate later: she's spoiled, it's her job to look pretty, and she can't vote. That's what we saw from her, because the spell isn't shaped by what the costume represents, but by what the wearer thinks it represents. Xander wouldn't believe he was just any soldier; he'd want to be the hardcore action hero type. Willow was a pretty basic ghost: dead and insubstantial.
Speaking of costumes, what do you suppose this kid turned into?
Even if this isn't an airtight theory, I have to go with it for one important reason: the simpering moron stereotype of past generations is vastly insulting to women. It seems to assume that being wealthy and protected makes us stupid, or that we won't want our rights if we're offered comfort instead. I can buy Buffy thinking like this when she's a modern middle-class teenager proud of her own courage, but I don't want it written into the story. We can't know much about the women of the ruling class two hundred years ago, but I believe there was a lot going on beneath the perfectly coiffed hair. Dismissing the victims of societal patriarchy as swooning bimbos is enormously unfair.
That said, it throws me into some confusion to consider Cordelia in the same context. She's the modern swooning bimbo, spoiled and sexy, but in this episode she's written respectfully and actually handles her part in the crisis quite admirably. What do we take from this, aside from the too-vague-to-matter message of "be yourself"? Is Cordelia actually not accustomed to being protected? Is she not affected by the same weakness as Buffy because she's free? Or is the only comparison between Buffy and Cordelia their different methods of attracting men, so the only relevant message is that Buffy's works?
The Buffy and Angel Show: Then there's Angel, who actually coins the phrase "simpering morons." You know you're attached to a character when he says something completely objectionable and you just find it fascinating. It's not the first time, either - back in "Angel" he calls his poor Romani victim "dumb as a post" and never explains it. I've always wondered why he isn't called out more often for these moments, but I guess nobody puts much attention on his early days when there's so much that comes later. I'm sure his personality and history hadn't been fully worked out yet, so some of this could be random, or more likely, he's just saying exactly what Buffy's ideal boyfriend would say. She wants someone who loves her exactly as she is, so he derides everything she isn't.
Later we'll find out that Angel was a womanizing drunk in his human days. It's uncomfortable to think that he hated the girls back then and slept with them all anyway, but there's also an insight somewhere in that. Maybe he just hated everyone. Maybe he deliberately went for the girls he couldn't respect, knowing he didn't deserve one he could. Were they really dull? I doubt it, but the interesting ones didn't give him a second glance. Until Darla, of course. A noblewoman. The kind he especially hated. Heck, she might have been the first one he ever met - he'd hate her automatically anyway, because you know how guys like him feel about women who are clearly out of their league. What to do with a beautiful stranger, all that rage, all that lust? Try to seduce her, of course.
Well, that'll learn ya. But we don't know any of this during "Halloween" - he's just being a dick, and Buffy's loving it. Okay, her I can't blame too much; all she knows is that she just embarrassed herself with assumptions about what her boyfriend wanted, and now he's giving her the green light to relax and be confident in what they have. And I'm sure that's behind Angel's own motivations, too - he's trying to reassure her with the truth, but the nature of this truth means he has to stop before it goes into detail. Still, of all the accusations Angel gets for his moral choices, this is one that I think has been largely ignored: he doesn't always respect the memory of his victims.
That's one big reason that this isn't one of my favorite B/A shippy episodes. The other one is kind of contradictory: it doesn't have all that much to do with Angel. A good test of romantic scenes is to look at the dialogue without the character names. If it's a compelling romance, you'll still know it's these two people talking to each other about each other. "Halloween" is big on Buffy and her feelings, but they're fairly generic feelings and it's a fairly generic story, and Angel could be anyone at all. His only identifying factor is that he comes from the past and likes Buffy better when she's being herself (and to that, duh). So this time we really need to zero in on his insensitivity just to make him interesting.
Cordelia and Boyfriends: Does she break up with Devon by the next episode? We'll check on that. I kind of wanted them to date longer, though. See, they're a great couple, because he doesn't die or try to kill her.
I think I could go on for a while about the extension of the Cordelia vs. Willow theme from "Inca Mummy Girl", but I'm not sure what's been added to it this time, except for what I already said about Cordelia vs. Buffy. It's funny to see Cordy and Buffy competing over Angel at this stage, not only because fandom turns them into a love triangle in a few years, but because Cordy is so hopelessly outmatched. She finds a guy who really is worth fighting for and doesn't know what to do with him, because her usual strategy only works on rich losers.
Xander and Bus Stations: I really like how subtly Cordy and Xander's relationship progresses here. She appreciates him in soldier mode, and I think he must find some relief after the fact that she was there as herself to go through it with him. Plus, that cute conversation about how hard it is to get between Buffy and Angel. Season 2 love square for the win!
My Willow Tree: Willow rocks in this episode, but I don't really have much else to say about her except that her costume was my favorite. It was just such a clever way to have her in both the ghost costume and the sexy one - the ghost is the one that takes effect, but the sheet itself just stays with the body, so she's a ghost of what exactly. And she knows how well she did throughout the night, so she feels fine about catching eyes in public.
I'd wag a finger at Oz if that outfit was the only reason he noticed her, but since it comes after the Eskimo and the ghost, I just love him more. "Who is that girl?" is really the only sensible thing he can say at this point. Don't just decide what you think about the woman - inquire. Find out. Who is she?
Giles and Objects: Considering that this is a huge turning point for his character and I love it and I love him, I'm not really sure what there is to talk about. He's got mysteries. We'll hear more about most of them.
Here's Giles with some index cards. Not exactly the easiest scene to screencap.
Here's Giles with a handkerchief. Hey beautiful man, how ya doin'?
Here's Giles with a bust of Janus. Seriously, Giles is not making it easy for me to capture his moments of holding things.
~Forgot to look for the silly shirt that ital_gal said Angel was wearing. Dammit.
EDIT: Here it is!
~Always wondered if that lady in the picture was supposed to be (or imply) Drusilla.
~Willow and Buffy conning Giles to sneak into his office are just about the cutest thing.
~We never hear why vampires eschew Halloween. Theories?
~Buffy has this one fantastically sweet and adorable mannerism wherein she puts her face against her male friend's shoulder and gazes up at him with an innocent smile. I don't know if this was a directing choice or something SMG made up herself, but it's a fairly bold thing to do with a character whose whole purpose is to defeat the flirty female archetype, and I love it. Here, check it out yourself.
I know I say this every time, but these things take me WAY TOO LONG to put together ARGH.