Characterization In the Buffyverse — ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Season 2, 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. Also there will be no referencing real world events in this bi-weekly series.

A cult kidnaps girls for planned demon sacrifices. Meanwhile, Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) ponders maturity.

(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)

Buffy, Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon), and Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) get the episodic trait of enjoying television they don’t fully understand. It could have become a running gag on the show, but, sadly, we don’t get any further reference to it. Buffy is also a better fighter in this episode — maybe too good since she handles Rupert Giles’s (Anthony Stewart Head) training methods too easily. However, her intelligence is lower in terms of her detective skills; specifically, not questioning or mentioning in conversation the broken frat house window glass. There is also the odd characterization which suggests that despite having supernatural enhancements, she can easily fall prey to any drug.

Xander gets some negative characterization in this episode with how he acts about Buffy. Yes, he helps the gang get inside the frat house, but he acts like he doesn’t understand that Buffy does not feel romantic feelings toward him. Also, Xander comes across as a major jerk when making the complex accusation that Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) is a “whore.” As for positive character progression, he is becoming observant. In this episode, he notices everyone leaving the party except Cordelia and Buffy.

Willow gets the most character growth with this episode. First in how she talks about “orgies” so casually. This is a stark contrast to how she acts in Season 1. Also, we see her actually display a fierce type of anger for the first time in this episode. Although, her acceptance of the idea of high schoolers dating college guys seems a little odd due to how responsible she is. It is also worth mentioning that she makes a comment that hints that she might have a slight attraction to Buffy in one line…

Rupert Giles gets a fair amount of screen time, yet his characterization in this episode is arguably much like Cordelia’s in how static it feels. There are hints of him taking on a father figure role to the group, though. Especially with how Willow and Xander admonish Buffy for lying to him. Also, the scene where Buffy pouts at him feels very much like a father-daughter scene. Giles gets caught in an embarrassing moment playing with a weapon — this is a bit of characterization that will become a running gag.

Cordelia Chase gets an episodic character trait in the form of faking her laughter. The real problem with this episodic trait is that no other character points out the stupidity of doing so. Thus, it technically should appear in later episodes, but it does not. Unfortunately, Cordelia also gets some character regression in this episode as she tries to avoid Buffy. This causes her to be a little static in characterization, much like how Jonathan Levinson ( Danny Strong) will get a date with her in this episode, and yet he is still a social outcast.

Angel (David Boreanaz) finally comes across as having the proper amount of brooding. He’s even not totally clueless about modern life, especially when it comes to dating terminology; though his presumption that Buffy and he will have sex comes across as a red flag. It is a dangerous sign since Angel acts as if they are uncontrollable animals when it comes to that possibility. Also we learn his actual age in this episode.

Tom Warner (Todd Babcock), Richard Anderson (Greg Vaughan as Greg Vaughn), Machida (Robert Atkin Downes) and Callie Anderson (Jordana Spiro) are all rather one-dimensional characters. Callie and Machida are more in this story for the sake of the plot. However, both give the main characters someone to both save and fight, respectively. As for Richard and Tom, they are rather obvious sexual predators — both because they are adults who trawl high schools for ‘dates’ and because Richard attempts to rape Buffy. The rest of the fraternity/cult, and their party guests, are rather bland and just there to create numbers for crowd scenes.

This episode’s rather weak plot means we don’t get much character development that lasts. Not to mention, there aren’t really many moments that future episodes will reference. Finally, by this point the entire main characters should be vetting any new people who enter their lives.

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