No saccharine sweet revelations, forced family encounters, mistletoe, New Year resolutions, or grand romantic gestures, the Halloween holiday is about two things: costumes and candy. While this may not make for the most dramatic of backdrops for storylines, these episodes sure can be fun.
6. The Onion: Has America Lost Site of the True Meaning of Halloween? (2008)
Always tackling the big issues, The Onion discusses whether Halloween has been overcommercialised as one panelist reminds us “Americans have completely forgotten what Halloween is really about: appeasing evil spirits to ward off sickness and ensure a bountiful harvest.” Worth watching in its entirety to hear the panelists burst into a spontaneous Halloween hymn.
5. South Park, Season One, “Pinkeye” (1997)
Another classic episode in the show’s first season run, Kenny dies, but this time comes back as a zombie, all the while the boys keep trick or treating and everyone thinks the source of their problems is pinkeye.
Pathologist: What’s wrong with us, Doctor?
Eye Doctor: Well, your body temperature is only 55 degrees, you both have no heartbeat, no pulse, and no respiratory activity. You’re showing marks of rigermortis, levity, and your eyes are all puffy and sticky.
Pathologist: You mean…
Eye Doctor: Yes, I’m afraid the two of you have pinkeye.
Pathologist’s Assistant: I don’t know what’s happening to me. I’m so hungry that all I can think about eating is… brains.
Eye Doctor: Yes but for god’s sake don’t touch your eye.
4. Pretty Little Liars, Season Three, “This is a Dark Ride” (2012)
Pretty Little Liars, never one to shy away from crazy costumes for their cast (okay, technically they’re not costumes, they’re outfits), has completely committed to Halloween, running a special every year outside their normal season scheduling. The highlight of these episodes would have to be the ‘train party of doom’. An old school fan of Agatha Christie novels, I approve of the bottle episode formula where everyone is stuck together trying to solve a mystery, and this is no exception; Aria is locked in a coffin with a dead body, Emily dresses as Barbarella, Adam Lambert is there for some reason, and a body is discovered in the ice that also held the drinks. That’s just unhygienic. PLL has perfected the art of OTT, and it’s a perfect fit for the holiday, managing to be funny, bizarre and scary all at once.
3. The Vampire Diaries, Season One, “Haunted” (2009)
After a very rocky start to the series, this was the episode where The Vampire Diaries announced itself as the rocketing, risk taking, no one is safe series that it has become. When main character Vicki, beloved sister of Matt, and love interest of Jeremy is turned into a vampire, this episode tracks her difficult transition to the undead, and when she proves incapable of handling her bloodthirsty urges, she, literally, bites the dust. Goodbye Vicki, you will always be remembered for this amazing scene with Damon where they dance around a mansion in their underwear to Depeche Mode. Granted this was the episode before, but placing it here, because amazing.
2. Community, Season Two, “Epidemiology” (2010)
Another show dedicated to Halloween, this was one of the first episodes (after “Modern Warfare” of course) that nailed the inverted TV trope formula Community would continue to master in season two. There’s a Halloween party at Greendale, the Dean buys cheap food with bad side effects, hell is a loop of Abba over the loud speakers, and even zombie Jeff is cool. As an episode paying tribute to Halloween episodes, random cats in the basement included, Community put its own spin on well worn territory and has proven a classic in an uneven but surprisingly brilliant season for the series.
Troy: “Is someone throwing it?”
1 Buffy, Season Four, “Fear, Itself” (1999)
Granted sitcoms and supernatural shows have an edge when it comes to doing Halloween right, but the original and the best Halloween episodes had to come from everyday vampire slayer Buffy. While Season Two’s characters-actually-changing-into-their-costumes plotline was fun, and introduced us to the entertaining semi-villain Ethan, Season Four’s offering of a haunted house frat party that, well, turns out to be haunted, stands out above the rest even in the midst of Buffy’s freshman year slump. Managing the perfect balance of funny and thrilling (something Joss Whedon honed on this show before going on to do the same for Marvel), it is really the unexpected showdown with the demon behind the haunting at the end that makes this episode so memorable. There really is nothing to fear, except fear, itself.
Also, Giles in a sombrero, and Buffy and Willow really get to the heart of what Halloween is all about.
Buffy: There’s no problem that cannot be solved by chocolate.
Willow: I think I’m gonna barf.
Buffy: Except that.