“All the Way”
Written by Stephen S. DeKnight
Directed by David Solomon
It’s Halloween, and the Magic Box is bursting with costumed customers. Xander is a pirate, complete with eyepatch (he’ll be needing that later). And hello, Beans from Even Stevens. How do I still remember that when my only experience with that show is from passing glimpses at friends' houses?
Dawn is too cool for Halloween costumes because she’s a self-important teenager. Anya is looking forward to playing “shiver me timbers” with Xander later, though surprisingly she doesn’t seem to know what it means. Wow I never got Tara’s joke about that before. Willow is super angry at a lady dressed as a warty witch, but then when a little girl dressed the same way asks her for candy, she melts. Bahaha. Dawn steals a Chinese coin.
Buffy helps out with restocking things, but she’s apprehensive of another time loop. Instead, she runs into Spike in the basement. He’s there to get more of some herb that makes his blood hot and spicy. He seems to know his way around the basement pretty well. He invites her to go patrolling with him. Buffy still has no idea how to handle a Spike who’s obsessed with her. He made lewd suggestions before, but now she can’t tell when he means it. When she comes back upstairs, Anya sends her to help Giles instead. She tells him she wants to patrol, but he says it’s pointless. She reminds him of “Halloween” and “Fear, Itself,” and he points out that statistically speaking, if anything supernatural does happen, it’ll happen to one of the Scoobies, so she should stick around. Pretty sound logic.
An overly cheerful man walks to his house and sets up for Halloween. Is he the villain of the week? There has to be something wrong with a guy who hums “Pop Goes the Weasel” to himself, right?
The Magic Box finally closes for the evening. The extremely busy day was like a spiritual experience for Anya, but everyone else is exhausted. Anya is looking forward to the post-holiday clearance sale on November 1, which makes everyone groan. Time to clean up, and not with magic, Willow. Anya shows Dawn the Dance of Capitalist Superiority. Xander watches fondly and suddenly feels like the time is right to announce the engagement. Dawn and Tara are both very happy for them, but Willow is mostly shocked, and Buffy surprised. While Xander and Anya enthusiastically make out, Buffy discovers that Giles’s habit of cleaning his glasses serves the dual function of stress relief and blinding him to the unsightly actions of the Scoobies.
Buffy and Giles throw Xander and Anya an impromptu engagement party at the Summers’ house. Anya tells the story of Xander’s proposal and the ring. She anticipates many future parties involving presents. Willow uses magic to insta-decorate for the party, to the delight of Anya, Xander, Dawn, and Buffy but the disapproval of Giles and Tara. In the kitchen, Tara asks Willow why she used magic for something so mundane. Magic should be for protecting people, not solving minor problems. Willow doesn’t appreciate Tara’s attitude, and when Dawn comes in and catches them arguing, she takes the opportunity to announce the conversation over and leave.
Buffy is very happy for Xander, which she expresses with a very tight hug. Aww. She’s kind of amazes at how much has changed while she was dead. Dawn tries to use her upbeat attitude to convince her that she should be allowed to get a tattoo, and then she leaves to go sleepover at her friend Janice’s. Buffy reluctantly lets her go.
Dawn heads out and does not go to Janice’s. She ends up in an alley, where she finds a teen couple making out. Then Janice finds her. They pulled the round robin trick like the Scoobies used to do in high school. They meet up with some lunky jocks at a playground, and Janice introduces Dawn to letterman jacket Justin.
The foursome of teen delinquents egg houses and let air out of tires. How is any of that fun? The girls discuss the cuteness of the boys, and the boys discuss whether or not they’re going to try sleeping with the girls. Oh, so that’s what the episode title is about. Gross. They plan to egg the house of that creepy old man next.
At the Summers’ house, Giles congratulates Xander. He also makes a lot of very grown-up suggestions like how he and Anya could move in together and buy a house and how the wedding is going to require a crazy amount of planning. Xander looks rather daunted.
Janice thinks it’s a bad idea to mess with this guy’s house. Her date dares her to steal the jack-o-lantern off his porch, but Dawn volunteers instead. The old guy catches her, then invites all four of them inside for treats. Janice very much does not want to, but the guys think it’ll be fun. The old man used to design toys. But he messed up and wasn’t allowed to keep making toys. He’s very creepy, in a senile sort of way. Justin goes to help him in the kitchen. The other guy winds up a jack-in-the-box, which is ominously headless.
In the kitchen, the old man picks up a huge knife, and then Justin turns around in vamp face. He drains the old man, and we see that he was just going to use the knife to cut up a pan of rice krispie treats. Justin comes out of the kitchen claiming to have stolen the old man’s wallet, and the four of them flee. Ohh, so when the guys were debating whether or not to go “all the way” with Dawn and Janice, they meant turning them into vampires.
Anya wants to have the wedding as soon as possible, and she piles on a new heap of adult life things onto Xander’s growing pile. He looks like he might throw up. Giles suggests they name one of their kids Rupert. Anya thinks that’s hilarious. She feels incredibly fortunate to have found her soulmate and for everything to be going well (holy crap could you jinx this thing any more, woman?), and that sort of talk bums Buffy out. The universe has proven itself quite averse to letting her be with the one she loves.
Buffy and Xander go out on the porch, and Xander reveals how overwhelmed he feels. Buffy encourages him to see the good side. He squares his shoulders and marches back inside, while she heads off to go patrol.
Justin learns that Dawn is a freshman, and he hands her some of the cash from the old man’s wallet. She informs him of her wild life of crime, with all the theft. He gives her his letter jacket ‘cause she’s chilly. The other guy is off attacking someone for her car so that they can ride around in it.
Buffy walks the streets, noticing a couple arm-in-arm and feeling gloomy again. Then an ambulance goes by to collect the woman jock vamp attacked. Buffy now has a target for her patrolling.
At Buffy’s house, Janice’s mom calls to check on Janice, and she and Giles figure out what actually happened. Tara is sitting on the couch, not having fun because of the fight with Willow. Giles informs the gang of Dawn’s situation and hands out assignments for tracking her down.
The teen delinquents parked their stolen car in the woods, and Janice and jock vamp play tag in the woods. In the car, Justin lets Dawn keep the jacket, and he’s about to try kissing her, but she chickens out, trying to distract him by turning on the radio. He says possibly the least romantic line before succeeding in kissing her: “I just want to taste you.” Yeah, and I just want to throw up in my mouth. That was Dawn’s first kiss. Justin can tell, and Dawn is mortified. He kisses her again, which ends her mortification. That doesn’t mean it’s fun to watch. Gross.
Cut to the Bronze, where Willow and Tara are looking for Dawn. Willow is weirded out by a couple dressed as Luke and Leia, who are dancing in a rather grind-y way. Considering that this Luke has a red lightsaber, I think they’re cosplaying as Dark Side AU Luke and Leia, and what’s a little twincest between Sith? Willow has a hard time searching the crowd for possible Dawn, so to simplify matters, she wants to do a spell that will pop everyone not in her demographic into another dimension, just for a sec. Tara is horrified. What if something went wrong? She can’t do that! Willow mutes the Bronze so she and Tara can have this conversation more easily. She’s extremely offended by Tara’s attitude, and she thinks Tara and Giles have been talking about her behind her back. She basically wants Tara to shut up and let her do what she wants. Tara unmutes the Bronze and storms out.
Dawn and Justin are still making out, and it’s still awkward and gross-looking. He nibbles her lip a bit, which hurts, and then they keep kissing. STOP. EW. He vamps out while kissing her, and she doesn’t immediately notice.
Buffy comes bursting into Spike’s crypt to recruit his help dealing with the vampire who attacked that lady, and Spike updates her on the Dawn situation. So she recruits him for help with finding Dawn instead. Giles is in a cemetery, which is very creepily shrouded in mist. He hears a scream and goes running. It’s Janice, who is currently serving as jock vamp’s dinner. Giles rescues her, and then jock vamp attacks him. They go tumbling down the hill. Giles succeeds in impaling him on a jagged tree branch.
Dawn jumps out of the car as soon as she realizes Justin is a vampire. Justin doesn’t see what the big deal is. He gives her the “you’re not like other girls” speech, which...she falls for? And then, when he leans in to bite her, she just closes her eyes and tips her head to the side. Seriously? Is this thrall, or have Dawn’s hormones completely overridden her survival instincts? Before Justin can bite her, Giles arrives on the scene. One vampire shouldn’t be a problem for him. But a dozen more will be. Justin has a bunch of teen vampire friends.
Buffy and Spike arrive next. Buffy is extremely indignant that Dawn was parking with a vampire. Dawn insists that she didn’t know he was a vampire, which means she was parking with a boy she just met. Not a lot better. Dawn doesn’t think Buffy’s attitude is very fair, considering her history with Angel. Ugh! Angel has a soul! So not the same situation. Buffy asks the assembled crowd if any of them only came here to make out. One couple raises their hands. Buffy excuses them, and they leave. Okay, this episode might have a dumb plot, but it has some hilarious gags. Buffy, Giles, and Spike attack the vampires. Justin is impressed that Dawn is the Slayer’s sister, which negates the effects of the hormones.
Spike is extremely annoyed with these teen vamp morons for breaking the “monsters stay in on Halloween” rule. Really? He’s got a short memory, then, because I distinctly recall that he was out with a pack of demons, trying to kill Buffy on Halloween of ’98.
Eventually, the good guys (and Spike) win all their fights, including Buffy pulling a Wilson Fisk on one vamp’s head with a car door. Justin pins Dawn on the ground. She’s upset. She thought he liked her. And she liked him. He tries to bite her again, but she stakes him. Then cries a bit.
Everyone’s back at the Summers’ house. Xander and Anya leave, then Spike. Tara frostily heads upstairs, and Willow follows her. Buffy leaves Giles to have a stern discussion with Dawn, then also heads upstairs. Giles is both angry and disappointed with Dawn (and with Buffy). Willow tries to joke her way out of the doghouse with Tara, which does not work. But a memory spell will work! So she does one of those, and Tara immediately forgets that she’s upset with Willow. They snuggle. Willow smiles contentedly.
So...I’m pretty sure “All the Way” would’ve been a blatant Twilight parody/deconstruction if BtVS had come second. Since it’s about how a vampire love interest is a terrible idea, particularly if you’re a teenage girl with no super strength to level the playing field. But the teen vampire romance genre wasn’t really a thing yet when this episode was made, so instead it’s mostly just about the struggles of parenting an unruly teenager. Despite a couple of excellent jokes, Xander and Anya being endearing, and ominous advancements of Willow’s narcissism arc, I much like this one. The main plot with the vampire jocks is obnoxious. I’m not a huge fan of teenagers as a demographic, but, weirdly, this show is better when it takes teenagers seriously than when it portrays them as grossly irresponsible and hormone-crazed.
As difficult as Buffy has been finding her own life, she still manages to be incredibly kind and supportive when good things happen to her friends. She might not understand Xander/Anya any better than Willow does, but she’s definitely much better at being happy for them. But she’s also very aware of how Xander has something she doesn’t. I really wish we knew what happened offscreen between her and Angel, because I think it has something to do with how gloomy she gets when she sees happy couples. The way Anya phrased her own happiness certainly didn’t help with that. Instead of being allowed to be with the man she loves, Buffy has to deal with Dawn’s teenager problems. I’m suddenly reminded of “Bad Eggs,” when Joyce joked “Wait until it starts dating!” about Buffy’s egg project, and Buffy said “I’m a single mother? I am doomed to repeat my mother’s life. How deeply scary is that?” Congratulations, Buffy, now you’re the (single) legal guardian of a teenager who is dating.
Xander loves Anya very much, which is quite endearing, but he’s starting to realize just how much being married is going to entail, and it’s terrifying. I think he’s making it into a much scarier prospect than it actually is, though. He’s only twenty (or maybe twenty-one by now—we never really find out Xander’s birthday, but I do think he’s a few months older than Buffy), and he already has a career, a nice apartment, and a car. As shocked as I am to find myself saying it, I think he’s better prepared for marriage and everything that goes with it than a lot of people are at that age. His scene with Giles is kind of a landmark moment in their relationship. It’s like this is the first moment where Xander feels like Giles respects him as an adult. Giles is actually proud of him, and giving him sincere, serious advice. It’s such a departure from how they usually interact, and I think that’s what really made Xander see that he’s living the life of a grown-up even though he still feels like a confused screw-up teenager.
I love that Anya actually has a special dance to celebrate capitalism. That’s hilarious. It’s also kind of inspiring how much joy she finds in spending her time productively. I can’t decide if she’s a Hufflepuff or a Slytherin. She’s ambitious, but she seems to enjoy the work as much as she enjoys the success, and I’m not sure she’d enjoy the success if she hadn’t earned it with hard work.
Dawn is still stealing things. And this is something she brags about to other teenagers? What kind of hooligans does she hang out with? Nobody I knew in high school would’ve thought that was cool, and I was only in high school a few years after Dawn (she’s class of ’05, and I was class of ’08). Also, what exactly was appealing about Justin? The writers were clearly trying to make an amusing parallel to Angel, but I don’t think it works at all. It almost feels like the writers were less concerned with keeping Dawn in-character than they were with forcing Buffy to deal with parenting a teenager who has all the classic teenager issues. I mean, really, Dawn is too cool for Halloween costumes? She’s a nerd! A Harry Potter nerd, in fact. This episode would’ve been much more interesting if she’d wanted to dress up as Hermione but then changed her mind because she was afraid her friends would think she was a dork (because they are terrible friends).
Spike’s attitude towards the teen rebel vamps is rather amusing in how self-oblivious it is (yes, I’m totally using that word). He thinks they’re a bunch of idiot posers—which, yeah, they are—but I guess he’s forgotten that pretty much every single aspect of his identity is affected rather than genuine. And it doesn’t even make sense for him to be particularly annoyed at them for violating the “no supernatural shenanigans on Halloween” rule when he violated that one himself.
Wow, Willow really does feel like she’s invincible and always right. I’m not sure I understand why conjuring party decorations counts as a bad use of magic, though. It really doesn’t seem like it’s hurting anyone, unless it’s morally wrong to deprive a party goods store of your business. It’s possible that my mental scales regarding the ethical use of magic is permanently stuck on the Potterverse setting. What’s wrong with using magic to clean and make life a little more convenient? As long as you aren’t using it to counterfeit money (which the Watchers’ Council does) or break any other laws, what’s the problem? Buffy uses her super strength for everyday life things. Do magic-users have daily magic limits, so it’s unwise to waste your allotment on trivial things? Is it a “power corrupts” sort of deal? Maybe it’s a problem specifically for Willow because the more she solves little problems with magic, the more she starts feeling like she can solve any problem with magic, including her relationships.
Giles seems to be so integrated into Buffy and Dawn’s domestic life that he knows Dawn’s friends and their parents, and they all seem pretty cool with him being her father figure. That’s really nice, but is he still sleeping on the couch? Because that would be sad. It’s too bad there isn’t a flat above the Magic Box or something. But I’m getting side-tracked. If Giles is comfortable enough with being Buffy and Dawn’s father figure that he knows Dawn’s friends’ parents, then why is he so upset with Buffy for saddling him with all the tough parenting tasks regarding Dawn? And can he talk to Buffy about how he feels like it’s not his place to lecture Dawn about responsibility, rather than just being upset and doing it anyway? It’s not as if Giles only has two options (one being to take over all of Buffy’s responsibilities so she doesn’t have to be an adult, and the second being to go back to England). Option three would be to have an open discussion with Buffy about the responsibilities he feels comfortable shouldering while she gets back on her feet, and then sticking around to provide her with support and understanding (since she’s not getting it from anywhere else).
“What happened to Xander?”
“He kept poking me with his hook. I sent him over to charmed objects. With any luck, he’ll poke the wrong one and end up in an alternative dimension inhabited by a fifty-foot Giles that squishes annoying teeny pirates.”
“Is that why you’re always cleaning your glasses?! So you don’t have to see what we’re doing?”
“Tell no one.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.