BtvS 2.04

The episode

A trouble-making old friend of Giles (note the revelation of his past and hidden ruthlessness) ensures Halloween is far from boring when the fancy dress costumes he sells turn the wearers into their representations. A fun episode for cast and audience alike, which gently pushes the more sinister undercurrent of the season to the side in favour of uncharacteristic behaviour and laughably chaotic situations.

Fun quotation:
Willow: She couldn't've dressed up like Xena?

The music

One jolt which opens this slightly campy episode is the lack of Anthony Head's gloomy voice-over. The lack of a need for back story indicates a standalone episode, and Beck delivers a thumping score to match. The reason why no music from this episode features in Beck's promotional album is perhaps due to the large number of cuts between scenes. In order to push the narrative thread through a number of characters in different places with different motives and tasks, Beck's score must constantly alter its position, and this makes for a very uneven score away from the episode.

The only standout musical theme to materialise here is a wistful melody used to evoke the idealised woman from Angel's era - it creeps in when she sees a picture of such a lady, and blossoms further when she finds a fancy dress gown that she feels will please Angel. It shows once more how Beck proved the melodist without breaking through the narrative of a good television series. That the theme is soon forgotten in a mad rush to save Sunnydale from mini-demons, a sex-crazed pirate and slightly bemused Spike is no disappointment, since Buffy's dream was doomed before she could realise it.

Not a classic score from Beck's Buffy œuvre, but certainly functional, consistent with previous episode styles and occasionally sparkling with invention.

Cue notes

Anyone not interested in some terse, mainly descriptive, comments on the music as it runs through the episode, please do not attempt wading through the text below. Timings are approximate, based on the Region 2 DVD cut of the episode, the timing beginning as the episode begins.


[Buffy fighting a vampire] After an oboe solo line (note that it begins by following the future shape of the Buffy/Angel love theme, but where the love theme is C,E,F..., this is C,A,E,F,lowG#) over hushed strings, a no-nonsense, almost military (hold that thought!) brass/percussion over trilling strings opens the action, breaking into a disjointed mixture of strings (perhaps high clarinet) and piano (dissonance abounds), but returning, this time with a horn theme, which in turn is taken through into a further disjointed dissonance style segment; resting finally on a low bass note as Buffy stakes her attacker. A hint of synth chorus can also be heard (1'20) before a rising glissandi of strings topped with high trumpet screech (note this as it becomes a Buffy staple) an emphasis on the scene's denouement.


Buffy the Vampire Slayer theme


Pop song: "Shy" (From Epperley, Triple X Records, 1996)


[Buffy and Willow sneak into the library to look at the Watchers' diaries] High piano, synth whines, wood blocks, high held string note. All very sparse. [Giles walks in:] A string/trumpet glissando - similar to ca.1'30


[Buffy and Willow looking at the sketch of a noble woman from a 1775 Watcher diary entry:] Wistful piano [Ex.1]


Again, slightly varied and extended as they stare at it again, like a distant dream - something pure and perfect, and overly romanticised. But then consider Buffy's desires


[The dress:] Again, slightly embellished and, as Buffy looks at herself with the dress, a theme floats gently above, with high tremolo strings [Ex.2]


[Spike & co. viewing the video of Buffy fighting] Gloomy low trombones, tremolo cellos and double basses. (14'57 - piano line follows as the focus of the scene shifts to Drusilla). Ends with a now recognisable Beck crash


[Ethan's incantation, part 1] More gloom (Ethan is, after all, now unveiled as a villain), ending with a rising line topped with another string/trumpet glissandi (another Beck trait)


Snare drum, clarinet/string march rhythms and a few horn calls to finish off a military style as the trio (including Xander in army surplus gear) march off to do their duty, meeting the army of trick-or-treating children for Halloween


A flute/piccolo flourish heralds the return of the military style, shifting to muted underscore for ensuing dialogue


[Ethan's incantation part 2] Mainly a spooky high piano note over a low bass hum


[The children transform into their costumes] The fun begins - stern brass is mixed with pizzicato string. Xander is now accompanied by brass and snare drum, Willow's transformation by piano figurations


Short link: cymbal and slow descending chromatic low strings


Upward glissandi strings and trumpet actually start this cue. Mainly functional underscore. At 25'07 a calm homophonic string line accompanies Buffy (now an 18th century lady) as she discovers a photo of herself. Rather than a simple human/normality touch (perhaps with piano), Beck chooses a melodic line doubled below at the 6th. There is also again (see the opening of the episode) a hint of the shape of the Buffy/Angel love theme, which is still yet to figure prominently in its own right. [Ex.3] 25'34 - Functional strings with percussion (especially snare drum) bring us back into semi-military action


As Willow runs off and we cut to Spike, her piano figuration motif is mixed with the mischievous pizzicato and staccato strings as the town is crawling with min-demons. Spike's group is perhaps signified by brass (symbol of adult male power?)


Military music and strings [Xander/Buffy/Cordelia] - skids to a halt as Xander finds a group photo, confirming his previous existence with a modern Buffy


Soft drum beat (timpani) with an equally soft horn(?) rising melodic line. Very brief, and interrupted as Angel arrives


Soft strings for Giles in the library before a screeching synthesised whine announces Willow's ghostly arrival through a wall


Whines, low humming brass, with some percussive synth effects, bass flute and strings. At 29'33 this breaks into an allegro, with running strings, dissonant brass interjections and cascading piano. This is essentially an extension of the material used at 22'21, and is possibly the action highlight of this score


Gloomy underscore - low bass with rising horn (or trombone) line


A lonely rising string line (mirroring the horn above in shape) is interrupted [as the lecherous Larry enters hungrily in pirate costume] by 'scare' music, consisting of high rapid piano chords and accelerating alternations between two scrunchingly dissonant string chords. The string sound is tinny and perhaps either altered in some way or doubled with another synth sound


[In the magic shop with Giles and Willow] Strings (cellos and double basses with melodic line) and celesta; 32'49 [Back to Buffy/Cordelia/Angel/Xander fending off attackers]; 34'24 [Giles and Ethan; 35'38 Cascading piano, strings and brass together, bringing the tempo to its most frantic as the action peaks with the group penned in; 36'28 [Giles and Ethan]; 36'35 [Spike and Buffy] stomping bass/timpani over a crescendo synth chorus, ending with the upward trumpet glissando; 37'06 [Giles and Ethan]; 37'12 Side drum (or snare?) with repetitious upper strings. [The spell is then broken]


[Buffy to Spike: "hi honey, I'm home"] High dissonant trumpet over action music (brass, strings, percussion)


Low bass hum, some passing string chords underscoring dialogue. At 38'24 the piano enters briefly as Angel checks that Buffy is "okay" (again, the human element emphasised here, especially with the instrument's connection to the love theme, but there is no reference to the actual theme itself here)


Willow steps out to a pop song: "How she died" (by Treble Charger, from Maybe It's Me, RCA Records, 1997)


[Buffy and Angel get intimate] Strings with light oboe doubling at first, then the trademark piano (40'20) [Ex.4] hint at the love theme again, from a slightly different angle and very different texture to 2.01ex.7 Note the obvious similarities between Ex.3 and Ex.4.


Strings and low bass hum alternate, with a higher, altogether more eerie chordal motif, signifying a darker side to the character of Giles by hinting at the same see-saw motif at the beginning of the Ex.4 - but the high piano this time is cold and harmonically ambiguous


Take it away, Nerf!

Musical examples

Ex.1 [midi - too fast]

Ex.2 [midi - too fast and poor instrument sounds]

Ex.3 [midi - poor]

Ex.4 [midi]