Characterization In The Buffyverse — ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Season 2, 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. Also there will be no referencing real world events.

This week: A mystical happenstance revives an Incan mummy. Before her inevitable defeat, she threatens Sunnydale’s male population.

(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)

Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon), Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan), and Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) all have the same characterization in this episode. This similarity is on display via the fact that their respective levels of intelligence are, essentially, lower than normal. This is especially true when it comes to obvious bits of logic, such as the lies they tell Ampata Gutierrez/The Inca Mummy Girl (Ara Celi) throughout the episode. Also, they all display some level of racist ignorance about other cultures — which makes no sense in the cases of Willow and Giles due to their willingness to learn and Giles himself is from another country originally.

Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) and Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland) are rather odd additions to this episode’s cast of characters. In the case of Cordelia, she is given the lower intelligence of a character like Harmony Kendall (Mercedes McNab) when it comes to other cultures. One can even argue that this Cordelia acts like the version we see in the first several episodes of Buffy. Whichever way one looks at it her character, it is rather one note and pointless for this episode. Similarly, Joyce gets a lot of mentions due to this episode’s plot involving exchange students. Yet, like Cordelia, Joyce serves no real purpose when on screen.

Ampata Gutierrez/The Inca Mummy Girl is a weak villain. Her goal is the rather mundane: she just wants to live as a normal person. Yes, this mirrors Buffy’s own want for normality, but it doesn’t make her a real villain. The only real thing that makes her villainous is the fatal serial kissing she does. Also, while we learn that she is a sacrifice to stop some demonic being, this never truly affects her characterization.

Jonathan Levinson (Danny Strong), Rodney Munson (Clayne Crawford as Joey Crawford) Devon MacLeish (Jason Hall), and Oz (Seth Green) are all plot device characters here. They are also, arguably, also two-dimensional — though this is more due to the fact that they each serve the narrative or will appear in future episodes. Whereas Peruvian Boy/Real Ampata Guiterrez (Samuel Jacobs), Peru Man (Gil Birmingham), Sven (Henrik Rosvall as Hendrik Rosvall), Gwen (Kristen Winnicki) are unnecessary one-dimensional characters. For example, Sven serves only to show Cordelia Chase as vapid and ignorant of other cultures while Gwen serves to facilitate Sven’s purpose as a character.

In the end we derive only two new things from this episode. The first is the introduction of Oz to the Buffyverse. While the second is the true beginning of a running gag regarding Xander’s ability as a “demon magnet.” Other than that there really isn’t any true development to anyone’s characterization. Although, the debut of these factors keep this horribly racist episode from being entirely skippable.

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