Characterization In The Buffyverse — ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Season 1, Episode 4

by Benjamin Hall

This is part of a bi-weekly series concerning the characterization of Buffyverse characters. The first installment in this series can be found here. Arguably the best place to begin reading this series is at the beginning, but that is up to each reader. As a reminder this column will cover major and some minor characters from the shows Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) and Angel (1999-2004). Other Buffyverse media, such as the graphic novel Spike: Into The Light (2014) are not pertinent to this series.

Screenshot from Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 1, Episode 4

(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)

Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) has questionable self-esteem on display in this episode. We see this when she assumes Dr. Gregory’s (William Monaghan) lecturing her will be more harsh than fair. It is a horrible trait we will see more of throughout the series. Although, it is something fans — specifically Spike and Buffy shippers — often attribute to her relationship with Angel. Other than this bad addition to her personality, we arguably don’t get any character development.

Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hanningan) feels like she is barely a character in this episode. This is mostly due the focus on Xander (Nicholas Brendan) this week. There are some developments, however. We do get a peak behind her figurative shell when she and Buffy tease Xander in the cafeteria and when she tries to give Buffy answers to Dr. Gregory’s question. Those scenes support Willow’s subsequent characterization as a rule breaker. And at this point in the series, she may have the most character development out of the supporting cast.

Xander Harris is a stereotypical insecure teenage virgin who desires coolness and sex — specifically with his attempts to lie about not being a virgin to Blayne Moll (Jackson Price). It is not that far of a stretch from his characterization in the first episode, though. Nor is it out of character at this point for him to still see Buffy as a damsel. Arguably, it means he does not get any real character growth in this episode.

Rupert Giles’s (Anthony Stewart Head) attraction to She-Mantis suggests he has a libido. It also suggests that he may get to have love interest;  something that happens roughly four or more times in the series. He also gets a secondary trait in choosing to ignore the behavior of the younger Scoobies; in this case, Willow’s illegal hacking of records. The final trait he gets is being useless at times — such as with this episode’s research.

Angel (David Boreanaz) and Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) are supporting characters here, but not fully. When it comes to Angel, we get the stoic, cryptic characterization versus how he originally acts in Episodes 1 and 2. We also get more of the weird — and somewhat creepy — gift giving he does. See how he gives his jacket to Buffy on their third meeting. As for Cordelia, we get a hint that she has an odd way of looking at life during her talk with the counselor. Also her walking into the school kitchen suggests some level of financial, or political, influence from her family. Though it is possibly both are due to the little we will learn about her dad.

Principal Bob Flutie (Ken Lerner), Dr. Gregory, Blayne Moll, and She-Mantis are all minor characters in this episode. Doctor Gregory is the only one of the three who feels like he is a waste of a good character. He is a tough-but fair-teacher who actually encourages Buffy. As for Blayne, he is an obvious one-off character: a stereotypical teenage male antagonist who brags and acts like a jerk. Flutie is just a satirical take on school authority figures who overly worries about lawsuits. The She-Mantis, meanwhile, is just a metaphor for teachers who are sexual predators.

This episode is very weak when it comes to character development. It might even be the weakest of all the episodes. It does have two plots, one involving She-Mantis and the other involving the vampire with the claw. One could say that it is already a narrative mess, and therefore no real character developments could happen.

Benjamin Hall

Among Benjamin Hall's many credits he is the creator and writer of the comic Time Trio; a writer/editor of various works for Sequart Organization; Blogger for Rippersspot.blogspot.com; a columnist for Comicon. He holds a Bachelor's in film studies and a Master's Degree in Media Communications. He is also an Aspie.

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