Buffy 1×10: Nightmares

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt | Director: Bruce Seth Green | Aired: 05/12/1997]

“Nightmares” is one of those episodes that has a mix of the fantastic and the horrible, which, when melded together, leaves behind a whole lot of mediocre. On one hand we get some great character insight, emotion, and foreshadowing out of Buffy. On the other, we have a premise that fails to live up to its potential, and an awful, heavy-handed plot with no real thematic gravitas. The character work certainly is more important than the plot, but that can’t quite disguise just how irrelevant most of the episode really is.

Let’s start with what “Nightmares” does really well: Buffy! Buffy’s episode opening nightmare doesn’t waste any time with the foreshadowing (despite the usual poor music and a hissing Master – lame). We see Buffy finding her way into the Master’s lair as he skulks around in the shadows. He comes up behind her and immediately paralyzes her as he goes in for the bite. This is almost exactly what goes down in “Prophecy Girl” [1×12], and it’s a great way to remind us of the prophetic lineage and mysticism that always surrounds the Slayer. It also serves as a nice prologue to what happens within “Nightmares” itself.

With Buffy hollering “no no no” to the literal horrors that await her, Joyce’s awakening response of “yes, it’s time to go to school” is yet another welcome nod to the show’s early focus and a reminder that the “horrors” of adolescence are getting near. Notice Buffy’s hairstyle during this sequence? It is pigtails, which are typically seen on young girls — children. Time’s almost up for Buffy; the Master awaits.

The nightmare is nicely expanded on with an interesting visual cue in the post-credits scene involving the Master (talking about controlling fear) that begins in his tomb, and then slowly rises up through the ground into the daylight where the high school comes into frame. Note how this is the exact opposite of a similar scene in “Welcome to the Hellmouth” [1×01], where we start in the daylight and then slowly pan downward through the ground to uncover the Hellmouth itself. The earlier scene hints at the danger (and metaphors) that lurk below, while the scene here in “Nightmares” hints at that very danger rising to the surface and invading the world above which, at least temporarily, it very much does here in “Nightmares” — neat.

There’s a truly cathartic moment (and we love those!) later in “Nightmares” — for those of us who have full knowledge of the show to come — where the Scoobies, sans Buffy, notice that there’s suddenly a cemetery across the street from the school… and it’s nighttime there. This is not only one of the sweetest-looking effects the whole season has, but it’s also a moment that strikes me both emotionally and symbolically. It alludes to the separation that exists between Buffy’s world and that of the other Scoobies. Buffy’s always drenched in darkness and the loneliness that stems from it, despite her struggle to embrace the world of daylight (“normal life” and her friends). This reality will always lead to a separation from her friends and the world around her, all of which informs that sense of loneliness and the craving for human connection.

As this scene evolves we see the Scoobies try to enter Buffy’s world only to want to immediately leave it, what with Buffy initially appearing dead and then rising as a vampire. While her friends are there to pull her out of the grave (hello, “Bargaining Pt. 1” [6×01]) to face a depressing reality (in this case, being a vampire, in Season 6’s case, depression itself), in this reality Buffy has already had to face the Master alone… and died (hello, “Prophecy Girl” [1×12]). This all makes for a truly prophetic and haunting sequence, and is probably the high point of the episode.

Earlier in “Nightmares” there are some interesting insecurities unearthed about Buffy’s relationship with her dad, which become increasingly important as the show progresses. Willow and Buffy have a conversation about the divorce of Buffy’s parents in which it’s clear that this is a big sore spot for Buffy, one that will not heal anytime soon (and doesn’t). We see that Buffy fears her dad won’t show up for their weekend outing, and that her personal instability at the time contributed to why her parents got divorced. The scene later, with her nightmare dad, shows that she’s also not entirely sure her dad wants to spend time with her. This is particularly brutal to watch, mostly thanks to Gellar’s ability to suck me into the emotion of the moment. It’s utterly heart-breaking to see Buffy’s peppy excitement turned upside-down. Even sadder, though, is the knowledge that some of these fears are actually justified — her dad will come to really douche-it-up in the future.

Worth noting is Buffy telling Willow that, back when she found out she was the Slayer, “I was in so much trouble. I was a big mess.” This tidbit, in conjunction with Joyce’s words to Buffy in “Becoming Pt. 2” [2×22] (about needing “help” and Joyce’s proclivity to forget uncomfortable realities), make the future knowledge that Buffy was briefly in a mental hospital (“Normal Again” [6×17]) all that much more believable.

While one would think an episode titled “Nightmares” would inspire relevant insight into most of the major characters, it sadly doesn’t. Only Buffy gets the royal treatment in what begins as surface fears (being unprepared for a history exam), evolves to life fears (all the stuff surrounding her dad), and then climaxes with primal fears (the Master rising, being buried alive, and turning into a vampire). If only that logical progression had also been applied to anyone else! Instead, we only get surface-y stuff for Willow, Xander, Giles, and Cordelia.

Willow’s sole nightmare is both shallow and brief. We see her having to perform in front of an audience, which only touches the surface of her inherent insecurities and desire to be out of the spotlight. As funny as the scene plays out, this knowledge isn’t exactly revelatory: the end credits scene in “The Puppet Show” [1×09] demonstrated as much, if it wasn’t inherently obvious before. Xander’s nightmares include walking into class without his clothes on (even though he’s clearly in fine shape) and acting like a gullible six year-old, chasing a path of chocolate bars surrounded by Nazi symbols and an excited clown. Giles’ nightmares — getting lost in the stacks, losing the ability to read (which does admittedly make “Something Blue” [4×09] even funnier), and seeing his charge (Buffy) dead – are more serious, but still not very revealing.

Cordelia…. well, apparently Cordelia’s deepest fears are having a bad hair day and being forced into the chess club. The problem is that “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” [1×11] shows us there’s obviously more going with Cordelia than meets the eye, so this is yet another missed opportunity where she’s concerned. What binds all of these characters’ nightmares together is that we don’t really glean anything new from them. Where Buffy’s nightmares are insightful, everyone else gets disappointingly superficial material.

The plot of “Nightmares” doesn’t fare much better than the characters. Whereas most Buffy plots are supernatural metaphors for real-life problems, the plot here ends up being a straight-forward tale of a random man beating up a random kid in anger. Beyond the plot being poorly drawn and its resolution ham-fisted, how is this relevant to either the characters or the larger story? The theme of the episode seems to be the effect one’s fears have on those around them, but it’s very poorly sewn into the episode and doesn’t resonate at all. The finer details of the plot are pretty shoddy too, what with the lame “Ugly Man” bumbling around hollering “Lucky 19.” Contrast all this with the similar but vastly superior “Fear, Itself” [4×04], where the plot and theme are clearly drawn to serve the characters rather than making a heavy-handed statement that doesn’t resonate with anything.

There’s material surrounding Buffy to admire in “Nightmares,” some of which proves to be surprisingly meaningful in the seasons to come – it’s these scenes that hold the episode up. Unfortunately, there is almost just as much to be frustrated by. The episode is centered on a plot that is completely irrelevant, the byproduct of which gives us nightmare sequences that are generally light fun, but quite shallow. “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date” [1×05], flawed as it is, is a better example of a Season 1 plot with a coherent message that consists of both thematic and character relevance from start to finish. It’s disappointing that “Nightmares” couldn’t follow that example.


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ The Master possibly getting his name from his mastery of fear. It’s always impressive to see a vampire confront the cross, because so few can.
+ I’m with Willow: spiders are ick!.
+ The hard-zoom on the history teacher’s face. Hilarious expression!
+ In what’s almost a negative, I can’t help but laugh when the girl goes into the boiler room (always a mistake) for a smoke, and then gets mauled as the camera focuses in on a “Smoking Kills” poster. Buffy, you see, had it right. She shot her “Smoking Sucks” poster with a crossbow! Buffy’s not having any of that.
+ Good bit of acting by the mauled girl in the hospital.
+ The guy with the shades getting ogled by his mother in the hallway.
+ Vampire Buffy wailing on the Ugly Man. Good times.
+ Xander still digging Buffy as a vampire. Can’t say I blame him.

– The Billy kid looks way too similar to the Anointed One.
– Giles’ speech about Buffy over her grave only resonates at all because this reality actually comes to pass (“Bargaining Pt. 1” [6×01]). Within the context of this episode, though, it’s overly melodramatic. I mean, come on: we know this will soon all be reversed.


* The teacher states that a researcher concluded “one of our most fundamental needs after food and shelter is to be heard.” I love how this sets up the next episode, “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” [1×11].




33 thoughts on “Buffy 1×10: Nightmares”

  1. [Note: Latoya posted this comment on May 1, 2007.]

    For some reason The Ugly Man scared me more than most of the villains/Big Bads on the series. I could feel being in the room with him while he attacked and I was never able to do that with the other monsters. When he beat that girl I could imagine being her. It made my skin crawl.

    I felt so sorry for Buffy. She was having her nightmares come true left and right. Having time fast forward an hour when she was taking a test, her father saying all of those henious things to her, the Master rising, being buried alive, and becoming a vampire.

    Buffy as a vampire: We better hurry. Because I’m getting hungry.


  2. [Note: 21 posted this comment on May 22, 2007.]

    I’d actually assumed that Buffy as a vampire had been Angel’s nightmare, even if he was absent from the rest of the episode. At this point, buffy is possibly the only thing he truly cares about in the world (just look at where he is at the beging of AtS after losing her and before joining up with Doyle and Cordillia), and he knows from experience how bad it is to be damned to life as a demon. Given her line of work and the amount of time he spends brooding, the thought’s certiantly occured to him.


  3. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on October 5, 2007.]

    I love this one. We find alot about the Scoobies and the more I watch this episode, the more I love it. I love the scene where her nightmare dad tells her that him and her mom split up because of her because it´s so heartfelt. I love Willow´s nightmare and Cordelia`s nightmare too. She dreams of having bad hair and joining the chess club, really hilarious.


  4. [Note: Scoobasteve83 posted this comment on August 22, 2009.]

    Just as I have read through those comments one thing came to my mind that i actually don’t like! Cordelia’s worst nightmare is having bad hair… are u serious? Of course that’s hilarious but also totally contradicts what the writers try to make us believe in the following ep OOMOOS! It’s the first ep where we get to see at least some of Cordy’s insights. She isn’t really all that shallow!

    I love that episode nevertheless. It’s the best stand alone episode of S1 in my opinion.


  5. [Note: Sunburn posted this comment on September 12, 2009.]

    Scoobasteve83: I think you’re right, and Cordelia’s hair moment was mainly inserted for comedy value and as a counterpoint to the more serious nightmares the others face. Having said that, later she’s shown being dragged into the Chess Club in a truly vile outfit, and I think the idea that it’s social oblivion that she fears is a lot more convincing. Given that, the hair thing makes more sense, because it does appear that a lot of Cordy’s popularity is tied to her appearance.

    It WAS very funny, and for me, quite a relief, because I found this episode one of the scariest. Most of the Buffy demons and Big Bads aren’t truly scary because it’s easy to remember they’re fantasies, but this one… it got me imagining some really frightening things both times I’ve watched it. Even the Ugly Man was terrifying for me, because what he represented was the situation in nightmares where you can’t get away, where he [or your own object of fear] just keeps appearing, however illogical it is. Ugh!


  6. [Note: DFAS Giles posted this comment on October 22, 2009.]

    Mike, I really enjoy your reviews. Thanks for putting so much thought and work into them.

    I started watching BTVS somewhere in Season 4, and have been piecing it together ever since, but catching earlier episodes in a piecemeal fashion. Most of my black holes are from Seasons 1 and 2, so I am rewatching them in order now. It’s so much richer watching everything sequentially, even those episodes considered more stand-alone. Watching the characters evolve bit by bit is fascinating, and I have even more of an appreciation for the quality of the writing.

    I can’t believe this is the first time I have ever seen Nightmares – what a great episode. I don’t know if I will ever think of Cordelia again without imagining her being dragged to chess club while wearing that matronly sensation.

    What lingers, however, are the funny (probably not intentionally) sound effects when Buffy and Billy walk into the cemetery. Whoever dubbed in the late night bird noises is obviously not a birder. There’s a loon calling in the background. I haven’t seen a lot of lakes around Sunnydale, so I imagine this loon is meant to be waddling around in the cemetery. Or maybe the sound guys thought it would be calling from the trees? If you see a picture of a loon, especially its feet, you will understand why the thought of a loon in a tree is so funny – definitely a waterbird. I guess if the episode takes place in the winter you might hear one calling from the ocean – how far is the cemetery to the coast?

    In Firefly, they like to use the “eagle” call in that scene with Patience, and elsewhere. Eagles make a sad little squeak, not very impressive, so movies always play the call of a Red-tailed Hawk and show footage of an eagle.

    I can’t believe this is the content of my first post. I will stop geeking in a minute. I have noticed that Mike can be a little scathing on episodes where the computer science is sub-par (“I’m jacked in!”), so I suppose we all have our little biases… 🙂

    It’s fun watching early episodes after you’ve watched the whole series – you notice recurrent dialogue, foreshadowing, themes that are not available to the first time viewer. In Mike’s favourite computer episode (!) there is a Scooby conference in the library when the gang tries to puzzle out Malcolm’s identity. There’s something in the script about working out a theory, about a demon, etc. It made me think immediately of OMWF, “I’ve got a theory, that it’s a demon, a dancing demon–no, something isn’t right here.”

    Thanks again for the great site!


  7. [Note: KatieJ posted this comment on November 20, 2009.]

    The actor playing Buffy’s dad played Almanzo on Little House on the Prairie. That bothered me for a while. I don’t really understand the plot- how a kid in a coma can cause people to live their nightmares, but hey, anything that causes Nick Brendon to be without a shirt, is A-ok with me.


  8. [Note: Luke Evans posted this comment on September 9, 2010.]

    My favourite quote from this episode is another great example of an idea being picked up six seasons later:


    Um . . . our dreams are coming true?


    Dreams? That would be a musical comedy version of this—nightmares, our, our nightmares are coming true.

    They didn’t exactly follow through on the comedy, but otherwise . . .


  9. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on December 10, 2010.]

    ADMIN NOTE: This episode review has been completely rewritten. In light of this, references to the old review have been edited out of the the above comments.


  10. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on December 10, 2010.]

    Mike, again, great job. Your rereviews have so much depth and layers now because we already know what´s gonna happen later on. That´s an advantage of rewatching the show, we discover and connect even more dots. And yes, SMG just rocks!

    But you say the nightmares here are superficial, not very interesting. That doesn´t bother me for three reasons. One, the characters are still very young and a bit oblivious to what´s gonna happen in the future, so it´s alright their nightmares aren´t very developped because the characters themselves still have a way to go. Two, when I get to Fear Itself, I also think of this episode because I think of how they´ve grown. And Three, season 1 doesn´t develop the characters much and doesn´t follow through. But like I said, their fears seem reasonable for me.


  11. [Note: fray-adjacent posted this comment on December 10, 2010.]

    Wow — this is a truly excellent review. I’m really impressed by your insights into the symbolism of the camera panning up from the Master’s cave to the school and the image of the nighttime cemetary next to the daytime Sunnydale High. I hadn’t picked up on either of those things. You’re right that the latter definitely points toward later themes in the show.

    This is one of my personal favorites from S1, especially if I skip the last scene. Ham-fisted is right. And while I agree that the other Scoobies’ nightmares are shallow compared to Buffy’s, I find Willow and Xander’s nightmares so entertaining that I put them in the plus column. The plot, though, I’m with you 100% on.


  12. [Note: G1000 posted this comment on December 10, 2010.]

    Nice to see this one knocked down a peg. I give it an F, but it probably improves on multiple viewings thanks to the viewer’s knowledge about the characters. Still, not an episode I ever plan to re-watch.


  13. [Note: Nathan.Taurus posted this comment on December 10, 2010.]


    -Xander freaked about being almost naked. He did look good until they made him stop working out. He wasn’t allowed to compete with Angel.

    -Willow laughing at Xander’s fear of the clown until it attacks them.

    -The Masters line “A dream is a wish your heart makes.”

    -Buffy as a vampire. Still hot. Imagine her with vamp Willow and Xander as a threesome of death.

    -Giles’ bad-ass look at the coach while holding him.


    -Bad editing. The clubman hits at Buffy, ad break, the clubman hits at Buffy.

    The Future:(spoiler)Adam is similar to The Master in teaching vamps not to be afraid of the cross.


  14. [Note: MissKittyFantastico posted this comment on December 11, 2010.]

    I think this episode is one of Season 1’s better offerings, and even if I’m disappointed with the score, I loved reading your review and all your thoughts! Thanks, Mike!

    I also wanted to point out my love for the part where Billy wakes up, and there’s a Wizard of Oz “You were there– and you were there!” moment, quickly followed by “Who are you people?” The rest of the scene is pretty cringe-worthy, but that part is great.

    (And oh my goodness, the music in the final scene of almost all these Season 1 episodes is *so* *cheesy*.)


  15. [Note: Miscellaneopolan posted this comment on December 11, 2010.]

    I thought this was a decent episode as far as Season 1 episodes go. I agree that most of the nightmares sans Buffy’s are lacking in content, but I think that Willow’s becomes kind of interesting in hindsight. Her theater-themed nightmare made me think immediately of Restless, which also revolved around a theater and revealed that Willow was continually “in costume” as a way to mask her true identity as a weak, insecure nerd. That idea, of course, came to the forefront in a big way in Season 6, and I think you can see it in vitro here. Willow gets in front of an audience and is unable to perform: her fear is that she’ll be revealed as the nothing she is.

    Granted, they probably weren’t thinking of that way back in Season 1, but I think the linkage can be made.

    Man, Xander looked pretty good back in the day, didn’t he? And I don’t think anyone made him “stop working out.” I think the actor just packed on the pounds over time. Oh, well.


  16. [Note: Sam L posted this comment on December 24, 2010.]

    My goodness, Mike! I’m really shocked by the sharp drop in the grade, since this is one of the few S1 episodes I thought we agreed was one of the better ones. I share in your frustrations–both the plot and its resolution are silly and way too convenient, and that the other characters’ nightmares are not as revealing as Buffy’s are (this is especially true in Xander & Cordy’s case–their scenes are completely irrelevant). As penetrating as your insights always are, though, I hope that what about I’m to discuss convinces you to add a few points to your revised grade, and maybe even enough to raise it higher than a C+.

    You wrote that “Willow’s sole nightmare here is that she has to perform in front of an audience, thus exposing her inherent insecurities. As funny as this is, it was hinted at already in the end-credits scene of “The Puppet Show” [1×09].”

    Honestly, I’m surprised this is all you had to say, considering what a major piece of character continuity this is for Willow. Her nightmare about suddenly having to sing an opera duet in front of basically everyone she knows cuts to the core of her insecurities: She is afraid that she is a fraud, and that for all her abilities, she is not pretty, not talented, not smart–just average. In fact, though Willow’s nightmare here is brief and played for laughs, her whole dream in “Restless” [4×22] is a fleshed-out version of this! All of a sudden she has to perform on stage, and she can’t remember her lines (just like in “Nightmares”); her whole family is sitting in the audience, and they’re angry (this is not overtly stated in “Nightmares”, but it’s implicit); and her friends are in the play, and they’re treating her like she’s already “in character”–that her regular attire is a costume used to disguise her plainness. This is brilliant continuity for Willow, IMHO–three years have elapsed between “Nightmares” and “Restless”, and she has made incredible strides in both personal and evil-fighting growth… but she’s STILL having the same dream after all this time.

    Personally, I think this is a huge deal, and even though my motives are selfish, I still think that this is clearly a case of well-thought out details and that the score needs to be raised. If I don’t accomplish that, I hope you just enjoy this as food for thought.

    Merry Christmas!


  17. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on December 25, 2010.]

    Sam, most of the relevance you point out is courtesy of what “Restless” actually does with the concept. As far as its relevance in “Nightmares,” I’ll concede that it’s a nice connection that does allude to her inherent insecurities, but it just isn’t fleshed out at this point in the show and isn’t something the show uses for any tangible purpose or as a driving point for Willow’s development. In “Nightmares” it’s just an isolated moment that gains meaning only because of another episode, while in “Restless” it’s actually a character focal point that’s used to comment on what came before, what’s happening then, and what will drive Willow’s arc in the near future.

    If Season 1 had utilized her nightmare to drive the character arc forward, as both Buffy’s nightmares and “Restless” do, then I’d be much more excited about what we’re given here in “Nightmares.” Since that didn’t happen, it’s nothing more than a nice reflective moment for us, the viewers, of which I’ll certainly admit to. I might end up giving the episode another point or two, but it’s likely to stay a C+. 🙂

    With all that said, Merry Christmas to you too Sam! Thanks for the comment!


  18. [Note: CoyoteBuffyFan posted this comment on February 5, 2011.]

    There are so many things I like about this episode. But there are also many things I don’t like.

    Things I like:

    1. I like what we learn about the characters — Buffy’s feelings about her parents divorce is very typical to regular teens. Plus I love how their fears are carried through the episodes.

    2. Buffy’s nightmare about her father is heartbreaking. Poor girl. This episode is actually great when thinking about future episodes. We get a sense after watching this how much her parents divorce hurt Buffy and how much she would like her family together and the draw of having that. Also, she has a huge fear of being buried alive and that actually comes true (well she is brought back to life when she was buried) in Bargaining Pt 2. Terrifying. Then she becomes a vampire. These nightmares are all fantastic.

    3. Giles getting lost in the stacks and not being able to read — awesome! Followed by him coming upon the grave of Buffy. I can’t think of a better nightmares for him at this time.

    4. Xander thinking arachnids are from the Middle East. LOL — Then being lured by chocolate bars. I think that is hysterical! I also share Xander’s fear of clowns — they are creepy.

    5. Willow is adorable as the opera singer.

    Things I didn’t like:

    1. Everything with Billy. It brings the whole episode down IMO.

    2. Is the Anointed One really supposed to be scary in any way? He is so lame.

    3. Maybe it is me but I actually thought the “coach” manifestation was the worst monster on the show.

    In the end, the good outweight the bad IMO. I always look back on this episode fondly as one of my favorites of S1.


  19. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on December 11, 2011.]

    The opening scene to this episode, Buffy in bed is one of the scenes that stick out for me in this episode; Buffy is seeing herself as many writers of horror genre do. The small blonde who runs about screaming No No NO and is killed. The perception i get when watching this scene allows me to resonate with Buffy, her fear of the master is palpable. Although he isn’t a cohesive presence as an abundance of the episodes see him imprisoned in a church and there being a number of stand alone episodes this season doesn’t make his existence any less prominent to Buffy. Other the years Buffy faces a combination of monsters, demons and vampires but The Master evokes fear within her. Buffy is truthfully scared of The Master and what his being free ultimately means; her death. Even in the season three episode The Wish The Master succeeds in killing alternate world Buffy.

    The nightmares start out as common everyday nightmares people have, the forgotten or unknown history test, spiders, not knowing where the classroom is but they begin to get outlandish and scary. The nightmares that affect WIllow and Xander are played out many for laughs, the nightmares that affect Giles and touching and relate to both his jobs; as Watcher and as librarian. This provokes a touching scene when he sees Buffy’s grave and proclaims that he failed her, its also the first time Giles comments on how gifted Buffy was/is as a slayer. It also serves as foreshadowing for Season four episode Something Blue and of course Buffy’s death in Season one and Six.

    Buffy’s character is really explored in this episode form the opening scene discussed above. The nightmares encroaching into reality for Buffy include there being a cemetery across the street from the high school surrounded in darkness. Showing the balancing act she has to partake in to have a normal life as well as carry out her duties as the slayer. When both Billy and Buffy venture into the graveyard and Billy asks if this is where her friends are Buffy responds with no its not. This scene is conducive for explaining how Buffy feels and where she spends her time; in the darkness. When Buffy’s friends notice the graveyard they go there expecting to find Buffy. When i ponder this moment i debate as to whether the gang no that Buffy is apart of the darkness, that she will always be separate from them?

    Once all characters are amongst the tombstones and they find Buffy’s grave they are all present when she digs herself out the grave; a little moment of foreshadowing there. In the season six episode however they aren’t there to greet her, to help her.

    This is one of the best episodes of this season. Sarah Michelle Gellar does some great work here.

    There is are some scenes in this episode when Giles finds Willow and Xander and his reaction to the killer clown.

    The dialogue too contains some great moments, WIllows fears about not being able to wake Billy. Buffy’s speech as a vampire too.

    For all that i have discussed above, i can forgave the plot of the little league coach hitting a young boy.


  20. [Note: fray-adjacent posted this comment on December 13, 2011.]

    In addition to the moment when the Scoobies look over and see Buffy’s nighttime-graveyard world from their POV — the daytime on-campus world — there is another moment in this episode that underscores the way the Buffy’s life is fundamentally different from their’s, that she walks in a different world. When Buffy and Billy first stumble into the nighttime-graveyard, he says, “is this where your friends are?” She looks around and says, “no, it’s not.”

    I’m surprised that this review doesn’t have a foreshadowing section — I guess because you covered all the foreshadowing in the review itself.


  21. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on December 13, 2011.]

    Yeah, that Foreshadowing section is pretty tricky sometimes. It ends up functioning a lot like the Minor Pros/Cons — all the major issues are tackled in the review. So I guess you could think of it as ‘foreshadowing that doesn’t have a place in the review.’ Not the most elegant system, I admit. 🙂


  22. [Note: Rob W. posted this comment on August 17, 2012.]

    Anyone else reminded of Ben/Glory when Billy yells “He’s here!”? Especially since you get to see that scene several times in the S5 opening recaps…


  23. [Note: Seele posted this comment on January 17, 2013.]

    Good thing Buffy had a “nightmare” about a cemetery, right? She’s strong enough to throw vampires, cemeteries have lots of crosses to throw them against, she should be safe, right?Nope: JEWISH CEMETERY!


  24. [Note: Ellie posted this comment on March 21, 2013.]

    I would like to point out something about Willow and Xander’s nightmares that hasn’t been touched on here. Willow goes on stage and can’t sing, and leaves her nightmare shaken. Xander goofily follows a trail of candy bars and is then attacked by a nazi clown. The big difference here is that Xander then gets fed up with running, turns around and punches out the clown – in effect he faces his fear, and gets the feeling of being free. While this doesn’t lead to immediate character development, it does set the stage for Xander more readily facing his fears and is another instance of his bravery, albeit a small one. Whereas Willow is unable to confront this fear and insecurity she has for several more seasons.


  25. [Note: Waverley posted this comment on April 16, 2013.]

    Hmm, I don’t think the nightmares are as bad or as irrelevant as all that. After all, dreams, and nightmares, usually stand for a deeper subtext. In the next ep for example, Cordelia talks about feeling alone and being popular because ‘It’s better than being alone all by yourself.’ So her being nerdy and unpopular in her nightmares could easily be a marker of her fear of being completely and nakedly alone. Likewise, Xander’s being nekkid in front of the class. A lot of people have that nightmare and it’s rarely about body issues, but rather a fear of feeling exposed. So this would just be symbolic of a deeper insecurity.

    Also, I think they wanted to concentrate more on Buffy in this episode, as evidenced by her getting split of from the group and her being the only one to see Billy, so I don’t think they really had time, or necessity to be honest, to delve too deeply into the nightmas of the other principal characters.

    Other than that, I agree with most of the other points in the review, although overall I’d have scored it a bit higher.


  26. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on April 16, 2013.]

    I think that Nightmares is a relevant episode; take Willow’s nightmare for instance, her fear of being in the spotlight or performing is touched on again in The Puppet Show and Restless in season 4.

    Buffy’s fear of being berried alive came to pass in the opener to season 6. Not to mention the musical is mentioned somewhat in this episode, when Giles says dreams? That would be a musical comedy version of this. No our nightmares are coming true


  27. [Note: Kate posted this comment on February 3, 2014.]

    Another thing- Although Willow’s still scared of being on stage during ‘Restless,’ we know that Willow ends up joining a drama class at college after she’s been with Tara. Finally getting over her S1 fear!


  28. [Note: Boscalyn posted this comment on May 1, 2014.]

    Sort of surprised no one here’s caught this: the Master tells Buffy “a dream is a wish that your heart makes” as he kills her in her dream; the implication is that she wants to die. This is (iirc) the first mention of the Slayer lineage and their death wish, which comes to a head in “Fool for Love.”


  29. [Note: Nebula Nox posted this comment on May 12, 2014.]

    I think Giles’s nightmare of seeing Buffy’s tombstone is quite significant. Up until this point his position has just been a rather fussy observer, haranguing her and telling her what she should do. This is the beginning of seeing how much he cares for her – how he is beginning to have the feelings of a father (and oddly enough, this is the one episode where he meets her real father, and we can already see that Buffy’s bond with Giles is competing with Mr. Summers).

    We’ll see Giles’s feelings come to the surface again in Prophecy Girl, where he discovers that, according to the Codex, she will die. He is desperately upset by this information.


  30. [Note: Jewel posted this comment on September 8, 2015.]

    I wonder if not giving any characters other than Buffy in S1 was possibly a calculated move. It honestly never bothered me, I guess because all of them are still so far from being one-note, regardless. Well, besides Cordelia, and she spends most of her time in the background anyway so it doesn’t matter all that much. Following the standard of episodes prior, I think the focus of ‘Nightmares’ is just about right character-wise. I feel completely satisfied with the amount of signifigance paid to each character’s subconscious horrors come-to-life. Even Cordelia’s brief and hilarious stint in the episode plants the seed for what we learn about her in OOM,OOS.

    I also think you were over critical of Giles’ speech at the grave. Of course we knew it would be reversed. That particular dialogue wasn’t created to elicit sorrow in a heart-rending situation, but rather shed light on Giles’ position. Besides, there was a grave with his Slayer’s name on it in his nightmare-come-true, was Giles just supposed to keep walking and say nothing?

    I’d say one of, but not the only, reason the plot with Billy doesn’t work is because it’s about a 12-year-old kid. There are plenty of one-off characters to go around, but at least they’re students at Sunnydale High, making them somewhat relevant. Like, where did this idea came from?

    I’d put this episode in B-range, even grading on Mike’s curve. The plot holds it back some, but most Monster of the Week plots usually do. And while we don’t receive a staggering amount of new insights, it’s still a decent outing that’s far too enjoyable to dismiss.


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