Episode title: Nightmares
Original air date: May 12, 1997
“I’m not worried. If there’s something bad out there, we’ll find, you’ll slay, we’ll party.” – Xander
Possibly one of the more overlooked episodes of the first season, for one reason or another “Nightmares” just never seems to get discussed in the same way that other episodes in the season do and there’s really no clear reason why. The plot itself is just as random as some of the other episodes of this season as Buffy and the students of Sunnydale High find their nightmares coming to life as the real world and the nightmare world suddenly start merging into one all which might have something to do a mysterious young boy named Billy.
The other main aspect of the episode concerns a weekend visit from Buffy’s absent father Hank, a character who would be gradually phased out for the most part of the later seasons were he would only be occasionally be mentioned in conversation. Infact this episode was one of a mere three episodes which we see him at all, but it’s an appearance which certainly helps build Buffy’s character especially when she confides to Willow that she feels responsible for her parents’ divorce, something which will play a key part later in the episode.
Not one of my favourites this episode still comes with some fun beats but never seems to gain any kind of momentum, so that it ultimately feels like a number of interesting scenes strung together. Still what this does give us is plenty of character developments as the fears of each of Scoobies especially Buffy who until this point has been largely portrayed as the fearless wisecracking slayer, outside of the previous episode which saw here having a mild panic attack and having to call for her mom when she thought that “Sid the Dummy” had broken into her bedroom. Here she has to not only deal with being buried alive by the master, strangled and even turned into a Vampire (marking the first of the gangs changes into a vampire over the course of the series). The ultimate fear though we discover is rejection by her father in one of the more heart breaking moments of the episode.
For the rest of the gang they get a much easier ride as their nightmares mainly deal with them being in embarrassing situations such as Willow being forced to perform in front of an audience, a fear we saw in the previous episode when she panicks and runs off stage during the groups tortured performance of a scene from “Orpheus Rex” we saw in the end credits of that episode. Xander meanwhile has to deal with his clothes randomly disappearing while in class, aswell as a creepy knife welding clown. A monster seemingly worked into the episode because the showrunners wanted an excuse to work a creepy clown somewhere into the series, but here it works and more so when we see Xander tired of running just turn and punch out said clown.
The aspect of the episode this week which didn’t work so well was the inclusion of the Master who finally reappears after being absent the last few weeks and here feels kind of lost outside of the scenes he has with Buffy, as get a random scene of him explaining his love of fear to the anointed one, which seems more filler than of any real importance to anything else which is happening in the episode. At the same time while we get essentially a bulkier version of the fork handed vampire from “Teacher’s Pet” only this time with a club hand rather than a fork, I did feel that the episode was missing a clear villain, while the ending and cause of the rift between the two world felt more than alittle Scooby Doo for my liking.
While this might not be the worst episode, it’s at the same time easy to understand why it’s become such a forgettable episode. At best this should be seen more for the character development and the humorous moments than anything close to essential.
Next Episode: Out of Mind, Out of Sight