Oh dear sweet Jesus why are there tarantulas I did not sign on for tarantulas WHAT FRESH HELL IS THIS??
Buffy and the rest of the kids at Psychologically Traumatizing High School begin to have parts of their worst nightmares play out while they're awake, causing the lines between dreams and reality to blur. Buffy notices a creepy looking little kid (which the show loves ever so much) skulking around the high school, and has to figure out what his deal is. Meanwhile, weirder and weirder shit starts to happen, as we get glimpses into each character's psyche.
Things I Liked:
The progression of nightmares coming true is really well done. It's instantly relatable, because we've all had those dreams, but the fears are highly individualized to the characters. Buffy has a stupid little dream about taking a test that she didn't study for, but she also has dreams that express her fears of being the reason her parents split up and turning into a vampire. Giles has a dream that he loses the ability to read, but he also has nightmares about Buffy dying. I love that Xander's really the only one who faces his fear and ends the nightmare on his terms. It helps that I hate clowns and enjoy watching them get punched in the face.
The hardest scene to watch is by far when Buffy's dad is sitting down and matter-of-factly telling her that he doesn't think they should have their little weekend visits anymore, because he isn't getting anything out of them. Oh, and that she's a disappointment and the whole reason why her parents got divorced. The fact that it's not something that's scary and supernatural, but a fear that's rooted in her real life (outside of her Slayerness) makes it all the more heartbreaking.
And how sad is it the whole plot line with Billy and his coach? I think part of the reason this episode works so well is that it's a real world story of abuse and facing your fears that's just amped up, if you will, by the twinges of supernatural elements.
I also love how detailed the nightmare world is...I mean to say, it's not just the main characters who are suffering from this, it's everybody. It's a great way to integrate some comedic touches, with Cordelia suddenly becoming a nerd being dragged away to the chess club, and Random Tough Guy talking to his friends about how he's going to kick the crap out of somebody, only to have his ebullient mother show up and shower him with affection.
Things I Didn't Like:
Ummmm...well, I guess maybe I'd like to know what magical court system exists in Southern California that allows for a man who has just been charged with a crime to immediately have a trial and be found guilty, like, a day later. But that's really it. This is a really good episode. One of my favorites of the first season.
Verdict: 8 Stakes out of 10