Characterization In The Buffyverse — ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Season 2, Episode 10

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 series.

The two slayers race to stop Spike (James Marsters) and Drusilla (Juliet Landau). Meanwhile, Angel (David Boreanaz) goes from one deadly peril to another.

(Warning of spoilers from this point on!) 

(Trigger Warning for mentions of abuse and brain-washing!)

Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) gets an outfit in this episode that is arguably one of her best. It is very practical, allows her to be fashionable, and is not problematic in a fight. Thus, it fits two sides of her personality. Unfortunately, despite her talks with Kendra (Bianca Lawson) and Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan), she still looks at her slayer side as not a real part of herself. This is also despite her telling Kendra how to be a better fighter/slayer. Buffy does get some character progression when making her first leader-like statement about not messing with those she cares for. It is not much, but it is something to balance out the regression of wanting “normality.”

Angel gets no real characterization in this episode. Yes, we see him fear for his life while facing oncoming sunlight when in the cage. Also, we see him try to manipulate Spike into killing him prematurely. Not to mention the fact that he acts guilty about his past tormenting of Drusilla. But for the most part, he is mainly a plot device character who, as a hostage, Buffy, and the gang must save.

Kendra shows some signs of brainwashing and abuse, such as when she complains about her one shirt being the only one she has. This suggests abuse by her Watcher, specifically, and the rather-abundant-with-money Watcher’s Council. The brainwashing comes in during her interaction with Xander (Nicholas Brendon). She believe she cannot talk to males, which suggests Kendra might be a survivor of verbal or physical abuse in the guise of disciplining. Since we won’t ever learn why knowledge of demons has become a secret — or much about Kendra in general — there is no way to know for sure whether Kendra is a victim of kidnapping either.

Xander, Willow, and Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) all get about the same amount of screen time this week. Unfortunately, we only see them getting into romantic relationships as a form of development. Willow gets with Oz (Seth Green) in a rather mundane way (minus the shooting) while Xander and Cordelia start rather suddenly. Arguably, the music does most of the work in characterizing Xander and Cordelia’s romance — one I think is unhealthy considering it starts with them insulting each other while facing a peril.

Oz talks a lot more than he will in the future. Thus, one can say that his characterization isn’t set yet. Though one can also argue that his initial excitement is at play since he finally gets to talk with Willow. Personally, I think it is a bit of both. Whatever the case, he gets two small bits of character development in this episode: the first is the set-up for his hair color to change at times, while the second establishes his slacker personality.

Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) is somewhat static in character development. Yes, we get a moment where Buffy expresses jealousy about Kendra and Giles relationship, but that is more showing Buffy’s side of their still developing father-daughter dynamic. At the same time, there is a moment during that long walk where Giles seems to notice this jealousy (of course, this may just be my imagination at play). Unfortunately, the most character development Giles truly gets is finding overabundant footnotes to be funny.

Willy The Snitch (Saverio Guerra) comes off initially as a figurative weasel when he sells out Angel to Spike. Yet, it is justifiable when one considers Angel’s previous assault on Willy in Season 2, Episode 9, ‘What’s My Line.’ Though he unquestionably becomes a sleaze — and sexual predator — when he suggests the underage slayers do nude modeling. The fact that he never receives punishment for either of these moments, or his attempt to sell out Buffy, is rather odd. This suggests that he is either very lucky or just very good at escaping bad situations.

Spike and Drusilla exchange character traits at the end of this episode. Where Spike has been Drusilla’s caretaker, he now is the one in need of care. Spike also shows his first signs of jealousy towards Angel. Drusilla, meanwhile, gives some unreliable narration concerning elements of her backstory. In my opinion, this is also near the end of where they both are truly a couple.

Norman Pfister (Kelly Connell), Patrice (Spice Williams-Crosby), and Jonathan Levinson (Danny Strong) get little to no characterization. We only see Patrice as fast, ruthless, and somewhat reckless. The latter trait appears when she shoots at Buffy while they are in a crowd. Yet, one wonders where she gets the police uniform from, and if she is at all demonic. Pfister is essentially just a demonic collective of worms that can take human form with no apparent personality. And Jonathan is just a hostage who apparently goes into shock. Thus, one could have had any stock civilian become Patrice’s hostage and say a dumb line.

In conclusion, this episode does okay with suggesting a darker side to the Watchers’ relationship with the Slayers. Yet, it fails at really exploring any of the characters.

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