Characterization In The Buffyverse — ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Season 1, Episode 5

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.

(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)

Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) comes across similarly to when she is under a spell in “Him” (Season 7, Episode 6 [2002]). This occurs in almost every early scene where she sees Owen Thurman (Christopher Wiehl). Though this is not as problematic as how this episode starts: the debut of another bad character trait. Yes, this is the episode where she starts hiding/lying/changing who she is to appease others. We will see this crop up in later episodes, but most especially when Seasons 4 and 5 roll around.

Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) starts becoming Buffy’s father figure in this episode. It is probably not as noticeable for new fans, though. His input about Buffy dating is one factor which crops up in later episodes. Not to mention that she asks him if an outfit makes her look fat. Which is not something that I, as a cis male, think a woman would ask just any authority figure. The other character development we get is the more sarcastic side to Giles. This happens when he is trying to say that stopping the prophecy is more important than Buffy’s date.

Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) again comes across as too much like a pervert. This is mainly on display when he tries to sneak a peak at Buffy changing clothes. Also, his attraction to Buffy is both too obvious and too subtle. Too obvious is his jealousy about Buffy’s date. Too subtle are his attempts at trying to get her to see him as a potential love interest. These behaviors are somewhat due to the lack of establishing boundaries, but one could argue that her accepting the bracelet with a possessive love declaration is not helping matters.

Since Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) has been an insecure character up to this point, one can say that this episode is the first where we see her with more confidence. Unfortunately, she doesn’t maintain this newfound confidence throughout the entire episode. This results in her characterization and character development being inconsistent. We do get some hints as to where she, Xander, and Buffy are in their group’s hierarchy — in other words, she is above Xander.

Owen Thurman is a one-off character, therefore we won’t get character development. Nevertheless, he makes for a somewhat interesting character. Yes, at first he seems like a stock pretty boy/love interest with the personality of drying wall paint. But once he sees action, we get the eagerness of a potential adrenaline junkie. He is almost like a prototype Riley Finn (Marc Blucas), but one that is arguably more likable.

Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) is pretty much a non-character in this episode. Also, at this point in the show, she has the least character development next to The Master (Mark Metcalf) and Angel (David Boreanaz). What little characterization does exist is just the standard popular mean girl cliche. Though, if one looks deep enough, one can see that she is similar to how Buffy starts in the 1992 Buffy film; meaning that she is superficial and popular, but there might be layers.

Angel is at the beginning of having a consistent characterization. Thus, we still see a little characterization more akin to Liam (Angel’s human self) than Angelus or the Angel he’s presented to Buffy so far. At the same time, we also see some of his abrupt directness; a trait which will occur mainly on Angel. The only other real character development involves Angel’s description of slaying as work. All of this happens during Angel’s only scene in this episode, which makes it feel as if Angel is somewhat of an afterthought in this episode’s script.

Andrew Borba (Geoff Meed) is the actual character name of the fake Anointed One. But like the real Anointed One, it is hard to remember why this character is relevant, much less his name. At least it is for me, anyway. I mainly just consider this character to be a cliche mentally ill villain. This is due to how he does not display a healthy state of mind as a human either. He is arguably one of the more interesting vampires, and red herrings, we get from this franchise.

Collin (Andrew J. Ferchland) is the name of the little kid who becomes the real Anointed One. Both he and The Master don’t get much in the way of characterization in this episode. In fact, Collin is more of a plot device than anything else. When it comes to character traits Collin possesses while human, we learn he has some interest in flying. This is apparent from him mentioning something about planes while possibly holding a toy model of one. As for The Master’s characterization, he is more of an exposition delivery system in this episode. Although, we do get a sense of The Master’s love for pontificating.

Despite this episode having little in the way of character development, we do see the beginning of some recurring traits. Also, this is the episode where we get hints of how the show will work regarding seasonal villains. In other words, an episode in which the villain is revealed, and the hero essentially does nothing until season’s end — well, at least nothing impactful when it comes to stopping the villains. That setup leaves Buffy with very reactionary protagonists.

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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