Continuing my Buffy the Vampire Slayer re-watch and nearing the end of Season One, we come to Nightmares. Spoilers for the episode lie ahead. With it’s surreal atmosphere, I felt like this was one of the stand out episodes of Season 1 when I first saw it. And I still love it now. It opens with Buffy’s nightmare that she confronts The Master and he defeats her. Fortunately it was not real, she wakes and gets on with her usual day.
But soon everyone’s worst nightmares begin to become real.
Their nightmares include having to take a history test unprepared, spiders that are out for revenge, out of control hair, killer clowns and a slayer turned vampire. The nightmares steadily become more threatening to reality and all the residents of Sunnydale. The nightmares are linked to a boy, Billy, who is in a coma. His fear of the “Ugly Man” is driving the chaos. Buffy meets Billy’s astral self as the violent monster stalks them.
Giles can’t read, Xander walks in to a classroom with no clothes on. Buffy’s Dad doesn’t love her and blames her for his divorce. Cordelia is dragged into the chess club wearing dorky clothes. The episodes surreal energy increases as Willow’s stage fright – which we first saw in The Puppet Show – is repeated, this time with singing. Xander confronts his fears of clowns and Nazi’s. Giles’s nightmare that Buffy dies because he fails her, leads to a moving speech by her graveside.
Buffy’s fears that The Master would escape his underground trap, and that she would be turned into a vampire all start to become real. Buffy is also trapped alive in a coffin, a scenario which will be repeated in Season 6.
When Billy finally wakes, reality is reinstated and the effects of everyone’s nightmares disappear. Does anyone else get a Wizard of Oz vibe from this scene? Like for Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, the characters who Billy sees when he wakes had something different about them in the dream. Buffy had a vampire face, Willow had been wearing a kimono, Xander wore a Sunnydale High T-shirt (Anyone else got one? Yes, I’ve got one!). Only Giles hasn’t changed.
Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Billy awakes to find he has been dreaming, that the people around him were in his dream, but were not quite the same as they are now. His dream was not meaningless. The Ugly Man represented the real monster in his life, his violent baseball coach.
Favourite re-watch moment
Re-watching with the hindsight of having watching the rest of the 7 seasons of Buffy, we can pick up on references which could be coincidental or could be interpreted as foreshadowing. Here’s my favourite from this episode, foreshadowing Season 6’s Once More With Feeling, which also references back to Nightmares …
Nightmares: Best quote
Willow: So why is this happening?
Xander: Well, that explanation was shorter than usual.
Did you enjoy Nightmares? What were your favourite moments? Let us know in the comments below!