Characterization In The Buffyverse — ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Season 1, Episode 8

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) gets a small amount of characterization in this episode. This is mainly in the quirk of having something against certain people who work at circuses. The specific moment occurs when she and Xander (Nicholas Brendon) first discuss how the internet can hide identity. Another bit of characterization is when she is first questioning Willow (Alyson Hannigan) about having a love interest. It arguably displays a more equal friendship between Buffy and Willow. Unfortunately the remainder of Buffy’s characterization here seems more stock than original.

Willow Rosenberg shows some hints of a more assertive sense of self. One can see this when she starts pulling away from the demon’s internet identity and when she argues with Buffy in the locker room. There is also some resourcefulness on display during her fight with the demon. Yet, it is debatable how much thought one actually needs to use a fire extinguisher against a robot. Other than those two traits, she is a stock character for a stranger danger public service announcement.

Xander Harris has a shirt in the first scene of this episode that no American high school would condone. Although, the shirt’s text does foreshadow some jokes about his character in future seasons. As far as this episode goes, we get a hint of his family not being the best. Specifically, he knows too much about his Uncle Rory’s past work history. We also get a sense that he is, in some ways, smarter than he lets on. This occurs when he and Buffy are talking about who Malcolm might actually be. However, Xander like Buffy and Willow, doesn’t really get much characterization in this episode.

Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) feels less like he is part of the same show than in previous episodes. This is partly due to the focus on the more “public service announcement” type characterization for the other characters. Also, this episodes introduces his romance with Jenny Calender (Robia Scott as Robia LaMorte). They both feel like they should have their own show. He does get a bit of new characterization during his return of Jenny’s jewelry and gives his speech about tangible media’s worth.

Jenny Calender gets to be the cool teacher. She is both fashionable and up-to-date with technology. While the latter is obvious, the former is more subtle. Although, her sense of style is more notable during the scene where she is entering her classroom while wearing sunglasses. When it comes to her personality, she seems forthright and knowledgeable. Take for example the scene where Giles walks away from her while pondering the blank book. Also, there is the hint of a wild side with the piercing jewelry Giles returns to her.

Moloch/Malcom (Michael Deak and Mark Deakins), Fritz (Jamison Ryan), and Dave (Chad Lindberg) are the villains for this episode. There is not much to say about Moloch except that he looks like a villain from VR Troopers (1994-1996). Also, his Malcolm persona is essentially a villain from a public service announcement about catfishing. Meanwhile, Fritz comes off as a cliche of a mentally ill student. Finally, Dave is the somewhat sympathetic student who falls to peer pressure.

This episode is, arguably, rather pointless since not much happens. It is the introduction of Jenny Calender, though, and does provide some great potential stories. Sadly, like the later technopagans using technology with magic, we do not see full usage of the concepts teased in Ms. Calender’s debut. Despite these negatives, we do actually see characters communicating — and this is honestly something they rarely do. We also get the statement that no character will get a happily ever after type romance with the end scene. What a horrible curse!

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