Characterization In The Buffyverse — ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Season 2, Episode 9

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 supernatural hit squad has orders to eliminate the Slayer. Meanwhile, a mysterious girl attacks Angel (David Boreanaz).

(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)

Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) shows both overconfidence and a lack of confidence in this episode. The overconfidence occurs when she does not check to see if Dalton (Eric Saiet) has back-up. Her lack of confidence is on full display when she acts hyper-vigilant at school. I think these displays hurt the episode — and Buffy’s characterization — mostly due to the latter not occurring for justifiable reasons. Buffy really only has warnings (dire as they may be) affecting her confidence in a negative way. As for her relationship with Angel, she really should be questioning why his presence in her room without her knowledge doesn’t scream “creep!” Finally, Buffy exhibits good fighting abilities in this episode.

Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) is mostly just an exposition machine here. He also comes across a bit uncaring and stodgy. Thus, one could argue he regresses a bit to his characterization in Season 1, Episode 1, “Welcome To The Hellmouth.” At the same time, he still acts at times like a character who is growing — particularly when he lets Buffy leave a meeting under a flimsy excuse that she quickly sheds via her departing comment.

Angel exhibits quite a bit of bad behavior. First in showing up in Buffy’s room with her absent; his presuming it is okay is rather creepy. Also, the fact he doesn’t feel guilty about suggesting he and Buffy break into an ice rink is rather odd. Not to mention, he attacks Willy The Snitch (Saverio Guerra) without any real provocation and threatens torture. As far as we ever learn Willy is human, and this is not something Angel will ever express guilt about. Thus, his excuse that his soul curse makes him good is extremely flimsy in light of this episode’s events.

Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) and Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) get very little character progression in this episode. In Willow’s case, we learn about her fear of frogs via Giles waking her up. We also she is not just a genius, but a super genius of the type big businesses seek out. Xander, meanwhile, only displays the ability to break and enter houses via windows when seeking out Buffy. Unfortunately, Xander basically calls Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) a slut so he has a little bit of character regression as well.

Cordelia and Oz (Seth Green) get about the same level of screen time in this episode. Oz, however, gets more character progression than Cordelia. We learn he is some type of genius due to the weird business people seeking him out, for example. We also see his reaction to dangerous situations with how he acts during Buffy’s assault. Whereas Cordelia only progresses by giving Xander a ride and then follows that up by committing a crime with him.

Kendra (Bianca Lawson) initially comes off as a supernatural threat. This is partly due to how she arrives in Sunnydale in an absurd fashion — beyond the unnecessary risks of her method of travel, there is no logical reason she has to do so. But her attack on the unsuspecting maintenance men (with no cause) definitely sets her up as menace. As for her fighting ability, she is a bit unusual in how she doesn’t efficiently use her weapons. Kendra also displays overconfidence by just leaving Angel to meet the sun in an establishment’s cage.

Spike (James Marsters) and Drusilla (Juliet Landau) come across as a couple who care about each other in this episode. Yes, one can argue that Spike is either abusive or mean to Drusilla at one point. But I would argue that he is simply mean out of frustration with trying to cure her. Whatever the case, we do get hints that there are probably a lot of unhealthy aspects to their relationship. Unfortunately, this will never truly get explored. As far as character progression goes, we learn Spike understands Latin while Drusilla likes to gag dolls and use Tarot cards to help divine things.

Dalton, Willy The Snitch, Norman Pfister (Kelly Connell), Patrice (Spice Williams), Octarus (Michael Rothaar), and Principal Snyder (Armin Shimerman) have little-to-no characterization. Yes, they are all antagonists, but Snyder has nothing to do with the plot of this episode. Dalton and Willy have very little to do other than provide exposition. Meanwhile, the Order of Taraka (Pfister, Patrice, and Octarus) are just a cross between “threats of the week” and plot devices. Although, we never learn if Patrice and Octarus are demons or humans — meaning Buffy’s slaying of Octarus may be her first intentional offing of a human life. Thus, making her later “no slaying humans” (as if we are all good) rule even more weird.

In conclusion this episode is rather weak on character progression, but strong on plot progression. But since this is a two-part adventure, it may look better when the entire season gets an examination.

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