Vampires, Zombies, and Hobbits: The Best of Halloween Episodes

It is that time of year when the mornings grow colder and the pumpkin spice latte is in every other hand. Okay, it still isn’t cold in drought-ridden California, but I’m pretty sure that the pumpkin spice latte heralds the arrival of fall no matter the weather. What does that mean? That Halloween is almost here. The colder weather makes me want to curl up in bed late at night and turn on something delightfully spooky. Luckily, Halloween inspires a lot of wonderful television, and if that is enough for you, there are quite a few shows that fulfill the scary quotient on a regular basis. If you want to fill your Halloween with appropriately themed television, then here’s some help (in no particular order of importance):

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Halloween

Season 2, Episode 6

"Halloween" Photo courtesy of

“Halloween” Photo courtesy of

When I started thinking about my favorite Halloween episodes, this was the very first to pop into my mind. Given that any Buffy episode would be appropriate Halloween-viewing, how could an actual Halloween episode not be perfection? Actually, now that I’ve mentioned it, does anyone want to come over for some wine and a Buffy marathon, because that would be awesome.

Anyway, for those of you who are Buffy virgins or who have for some inconceivable reason forgotten, here’s the gist: after reading in the Watcher’s Diary about one of Angel’s past flames, Buffy decides to dress as a woman from the eighteenth century for Halloween. This is all well and good except that the man who runs the costume shop casts a spell that turns everyone who bought a costume from him into the thing they are pretending to be. So Buffy spends the night as a confused, helpless woman, and with Drusilla’s help, Spike knows it. Luckily, Xander is dressed as a soldier and Willow is dressed as a ghost, so he has military knowledge and she can still think like herself. In the end, Giles saves the town from the spell, Buffy regains her sense in time to beat Spike’s ass, and Willow gets some self-confidence and attracts Oz’s attention. Oh, and Xander retains some of that military knowledge, which comes in very handy in the final season. All in all, it’s a Buffy classic, which is a bit odd given how little slaying the slayer actually gets up to.

Castle: Vampire Weekend

Season 2, Episode 6

"Vampire Weekend" Photo courtesy of

“Vampire Weekend” Photo courtesy of

When you find a murdered vampire in a cemetery, you call Beckett and Castle. But the Halloweeny-ness of this episode does not end there. You have a vampire coven, a werewolf, a decades old murder, and your only witness is suffering from porphyria, actually called the vampire disease. Cap that off with a Richard Castle Halloween party that I dearly want an invitation to and you have an excellent Halloween episode.

In addition to the appropriately themed case of the week, this episode also features one of my favorite Nathan Fillion moments, wherein his character, Castle, chooses to dress as a space cowboy and comes out in costume fully reminiscent of Fillion’s character in Firefly, Malcolm Reynolds. Beyond the joy of seeing those tight pants again, you also have Alexis quipping, “Didn’t you wear that five years ago?” Classic.

And for avid Castle fans, this episode bears a rewatch for another reason. Now that we know that Castle has lied about the true reasons he decided to become a mystery writer, it is really interesting to revisit him concocting a fake story for Kate about finding the body of his housekeeper’s son washed up on the beach. Are his real reasons closer to this tall tale then we were led to believe? And why keep it a secret from Kate? I for one am truly excited to see this new mythology unfold, even while I can fully enjoy revisiting the days when Rick and Kate were “just” partners.

Bones: Mummy in the Maze

Season 3, Episode 5

"Mummy in the Maze" Photo courtesy of

“Mummy in the Maze” Photo courtesy of

Bones and Booth must solve the murder of multiple missing teenagers who reappear as mummies dumped in Halloween haunts, hidden among the fake bodies. Of course, they get a break in the case right before the annual Jeffersonian Halloween party, so Booth as a squint and Bones as Wonder Woman must rush to the rescue of a missing 14-year-old girl before she meets the fate of the others. Snakes and a killer clown add to the overall horror theme of the episode, but I would say that the Jeffersonian crew’s Halloween costumes are reason enough to watch this one. Brennan’s costume is so authentic that her wrist cuffs can actually deflect bullets!

Beyond the Halloween goings-on, this episode also features Angela’s search for her husband, who smells like “a fresh wind after a summer storm,” seeking divorce so that she can marry Hodgins. Zack Addy is still Dr. Brennan’s assistant of choice, as he had not yet been identified as the apprentice to a serial killer. Also notable is the presence of Boy Meets World’s Rider Strong as a spooky murder suspect.

Psych: In Plain Fright

Season 5, Episode 11

"In Plain Fright" Photo courtesy of

“In Plain Fright” Photo courtesy of

Shawn and Gus go to the opening day of Scare Fest, and while on the Haunted House ride, Shawn sweats he sees someone get murdered. Though no one believes him, and Gus was too scared to have had his eyes open to witness the same attack, they are finally believed when it is revealed that the man Shawn saw was Park President, a man who has been missing for a few hours. The murder is blamed on the ghost of Johnny Ricketts, a boy who fell to his death from the ferris wheel 15 years ago, an incident that closed down the park until its current reincarnation.

Throughout the episode, the usual hijinks ensue, but they are particularly funny because Shawn is attempting to hide his new relationship with Juliet from Gus.

The Big Bang Theory: The Middle-Earth Paradigm

Season 1, Episode 6

"The Middle-Earth Paradigm" Photo courtesy of

“The Middle-Earth Paradigm” Photo courtesy of

Back in season one, Leonard was still trying to win Penny’s affections. So when she invites him and the guys over to a Halloween party, he wants to make a good impression by showing that he can interact with her group of friends. Of course, since the four guys all want to be The Flash, Leonard has to settle for the second best costume idea: Frodo. While at the party, Leonard confronts Penny’s ex-boyfriend Kurt and gets physically intimidated for his trouble. But later, when Penny goes to his apartment to apologize, she kisses him for the first time.

Beyond being the set-up for a pretty big moment in Penny and Leonard’s relationship, this episode has tons of costume-related jokes for the nerd and geek in all of us. From the multiple comic book hero appearances, to the recommendation that four Flashes could walk in a line all night to give the appearance of moving rapidly, to Sheldon giving helpful clues to partygoers unable to guess his costume (The Doppler Effect), “The Middle-Earth Paradigm” has something for everyone. It even has something for Raj, who ends up having sex with a girl who can appreciate his listening skills so much that she never notices he never speaks a word.

Community: Epidemiology

Season 2, Episode 6

"Epidemiology" Photo courtesy of

“Epidemiology” Photo courtesy of

What makes a good Halloween episode? I would say it has to differ by genre, as a comedy will approach the subject much differently than a drama. And supernatural dramas have a lot more leeway than your more run-of-the-mill reality-based dramas. What Community offers in “Epidemiology” is the perfect mix of all genres. You have the awesome costumes, the hilarious jokes, and the credible horror threat that is somehow explained in only half an hour. Can someone explain to me again why this show was cancelled? Thank goodness for Yahoo and a sixth season.

Halloween at Greendale Community College gets interesting when some experimental taco meat gets mixed up with discount military rations and leads to the creation of a zombie hoard. Contains a voiceover by George Takei, nonstop ABBA, and the reminder “add Eat, Pray, Love soundtrack to workout mix.” Luckily a little teamwork from the unstoppable duo that is Abed and Troy (in the morning!) brings an end to the chaos, and the government steps in to make everyone forget. Although even a little brainwashing by the government cannot erase the fact that Shirley and Chang have sex in a bathroom.

Community: Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps

Season 3, Episode 5

"Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps" Photo courtesy of

“Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps” Photo courtesy of

When Community does theme episodes it goes all out (see: all paintball episodes) so more than one Halloween episode has to land on this list. While “Epidemiology” is the best of the two, “Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps” has horror stories perfectly exemplifying the personalities of each character. Essentially, after having all of her friends take a psychological test, Britta discovers that one of them might be “a sociopathic Dorito. A Cool Ranch lunatic.” Since the tests are anonymous, Britta sits everyone down to tell them horror stories to gauge their reactions and pinpoint the possible psychopath. Instead, each study group member tells their own tales, revealing that they are all, in fact, crazy. And once Annie discovers that Britta “Britta’d” the test results, it turns out that all of them except for one may very well be criminally insane.

The character study does not remain in the horror stories and continues into the study group itself, leading to one of my favorite exchanges in the series:

  • Britta: We learned an important lesson tonight. We should never make the Britta of Britta-ing each other’s feelings.
  • Pierce: You’re using it wrong!
  • Jeff: Wow. You Britta’d Britta’d.
  • Abed. Yeah, way to pull an Abed.
  • Shirley: I don’t get it.
  • Jeff: Shirley don’t Pierce.
  • Pierce: I don’t get it.

American Horror Story: Halloween Part 1 and Part 2

Season 1, Episodes 4 and 5

"Halloween Part 1" Photo  courtesy of

“Halloween Part 1” Photo courtesy of

As the name implies, you could pick any episode of AHS from any season and have the perfect viewing for Halloween night. And if you want to keep it tuned to a marathon of a single series, AHS would not disappoint from beginning to end, bringing the necessary ghosts and goblins out to scare you all night long. But to pick one episode out of them all, I have to cheat and pick the two-part Halloween episode from the first season. You have the introduction of Zachary Quinto as Chad Warwick, a previous owner of the haunted house who dies in an apple bucket while preparing for a Halloween party in 2010. You have the current owners preparing for Halloween in an attempt to bring buyers to the house (because nothing will fix the image problem of being known as the “Murder House” better than some ghoulish Halloween decorations). And you have the introduction of more ghosts and more horrid house history that includes back room abortions and Frankenstein monster patchwork babies. Sadly the second episode ends with the death of Addy, revealing that only those who die on the property return to haunt forever more.

Any of these episodes would have the suitable elements, but can you really skip out on the episode entitled “Halloween”?

The Walking Dead: Days Gone Bye

Season 1, Episode 1

"Days Gone Bye" Photo courtesy of

“Days Gone Bye” Photo courtesy of

I was at home on Halloween night 2010 with not much to do when I heard about a new show premiering on AMC. As someone who usually hates anything to do with zombies (I’m a vampire girl at heart), this was perhaps the only night that I would be willing to watch such a show, and boy am I glad I did. With just the right amount of horror, way too much blood, and a whole lot a subtlety, The Walking Dead quickly became more than just a brief thrill on a Halloween night. Now entering its fifth season, it is a must watch show that I recommend to zombie lovers and haters alike.

Another show ripe for a Halloween marathon, if you have to choose one episode to view it should be the one where it all began. In short: Rick Grimes awakes after being admitted to the hospital post-bullet shot wound and discovers that the apocalypse has begun while he was in a coma. Luckily, his police background gives him the edge when defending against zombies, traveling across the country to find his missing family. The pilot has the stunning image of Rick shooting a zombie child straight in the forehead and a horse being disemboweled amid a zombie mob.

Doctor Who: The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances

Series 1, Episodes 9 and 10

"The Doctor Dances" Photo courtesy of

“The Doctor Dances” Photo courtesy of

Okay. I must admit that this item on the list has absolutely nothing to do with Halloween. But it is still essential Halloween viewing. I have been a huge fan of the Doctor Who reboot since I discovered it. What I love most is its ability to sway between complete humor and horror in the space of a single episode. Though “Blink” is my favorite Doctor Who episode ever, the duo of “The Empty Child: and “The Doctor Dances” stands as the creepiest Who episodes in my memory. In fact, I couldn’t watch these brilliant episodes alone, which make them the perfect choice for watching on a dark Halloween night. And if scary is not your thing, you might want to watch to see the introduction of sometime Doctor companion Jack Harkness.

To recap: The Doctor and Rose travel back to 1941 an the blitz, where they discover that a small child in a gas mask has been terrorizing the city, spreading his emptiness to everyone who touches him in sympathy. And no, that is no ordinary gas mask; that is actually the child’s face. In true style, the Doctor saves the day, but the phrase “Are you my mummy?” will never have the same meaning again.

So whether you need to get in the mood a little early or you want to save it all for the scariest of nights, sit back, relax, and choose your poison. Do you want laughter, murder, or a little of both?. Whatever you pick, remember to turn down the lights and maybe invite over a few friends. You want the atmosphere, but you might not want to be alone.