Project 310 - Nightmares

Season 1, Episode 10 - “Nightmares”
Original airdate: May 12, 1997
Project 310 re-watch date: Dec. 31, 2008

This episode features the nightmares of all the people in Sunnydale coming true, thanks to a boy who’s in a coma after being attacked by his “kiddie league” baseball coach (and how sad is it that they couldn’t use the actual term Little League?). It’s one of those “only on The Hellmouth” developments that was pretty common in Season 1 and early in Season 2, before the show really started to develop quality Big Bads.

This episode has so many things to like about it, that I’m just going to start listing them:
-Giles’s explanation of the situation to Xander and Willow as simply “Billy”, to which Xander responds “Well, that explanation was shorter than usual”.
-Really, all of the nightmares are hilarious, but my personal favorite is, as usual, Cordelia’s.
-Again with the Willow stagefright and Alyson’s fear of singing.
-Xander being completely oblivious to the trail of chocolate bars leading him into another nightmare is so typical of his character and so damn great.
-We finally get some damn interaction between Buffy and The Master. Hell, in Season 7, The First was incorporeal and still interacted more with Buffy than the Master did.
-The Master using the line “a dream is a wish your heart makes” (originally from “Cinderella”) is just so damn funny.

I need to address one thing I like in much longer form: one of Buffy’s nightmares was being buried alive (which led to the only appearance on the series of Vampire Buffy). It was easy to dismiss this, since it only lasted about 4 minutes, but this was a little thing the writers of the series planted early on, and then brought back in Season 6. In “Bargaining”, when Buffy is resurrected, she’s still stuck in her coffin. It’s her greatest fear actually brought to life, and her closest friends are responsible for it. I believe that in some way this act, more so than the resurrection itself, is what leads to her disorientation early in Season 6 (of course, that should be more for a discussion on “Bargaining” than on “Nightmares”, but I’m still not sure I’m going to continue Project 310 after 3/10, so I’ll address it here.)

My one big gripe with this episode is the introduction of what I’ll call “Joss Whedon’s Daddy Issues”. Hank Summers is such an ass to Buffy in her nightmare interaction with him, and is, for the most part, an absentee dad anyway. Buffy isn’t the only character with dad issues, far from it. Not only did Angel kill his father (and his mother, and pretty much all of his family), but hated his father long before he became a vampire. Wesley had a terrible relationship with his father, detailed so perfectly in the Angel Season 5 episode “Lineage”. The antics of Xander’s father helped lead to the riot at his aborted wedding to Anya. I could go on with more examples, but it definitely seemed after awhile that Joss had a bit of a hidden agenda here (and trust me, I’m far from the first person to point this out), and this was the episode where it all started.

Last thought on this episode -- for a one-off (that is, not directly related to the story of the Big Bad) episode in Season 1, this episode saw a lot of merchandise produced for it. The series 1 PALz figures for Xander and Willow were based on this episode. There was also a separate Vampire Buffy PALz figure, a 6-inch Vampire Buffy and a 12-inch Vampire Buffy. I guess when you do alternate versions of the characters on the show, it lends itself to easy marketing tie-ins, but that seemed like a little much (and this is coming from a guy who owns just about every piece of Buffy-related merchandise there is to own).