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 new guy enters the Summers family’s lives. Is he a friend or yet another foe the Slayer needs to best?
(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)
(Trigger warning for mentions of gaslighting, drugging, and abuse.)
Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) gets some regression when she rapid-fire talks to Angel (David Boreanaz) about Ted Buchanan (John Ritter). Specifically, she sounds like a stereotypical girl complaining to her significant other. This is a regression due to it being how her pre-slayer self might act. Also, “stereotypical” is her reaction to catching both her parental figures — Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland) and Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) — making out, respectively. Although, this does provide some character development in showing she sees Giles as a father, albeit unconsciously.
As far as Buffy’s handling of Ted goes, she feels more like the perceived notion of a Lifetime movie hero in that she constantly second-guesses herself. Finally, there is the unfortunate character development of the “no killing humans” rule that begins with Ted’s first “death.”
Giles’s characterization is a little out of sorts in this episode. Mainly, this is on display when he is watching Buffy fight in the graveyard. He seems overly squeamish in comparison to any other time we will see him near a combat situation. His interactions with Jenny Calender (Robia Scott as Robia LaMorte), meanwhile, are simply a way to remind us she exists. One interaction restarts their romance, but all three scenes are just because the seasonal plot requires Giles and Jenny to act this way; meaning that the interactions rush their character development.
Angel, Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon), Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan), and Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) are all in this episode for the same reasons as Jenny: to service the story and to remind us they exist. Although Angel is really only in this episode for the latter reason, he also services the seasonal story arc and its theme of tragic love. Xander, Willow, and Cordelia are arguably only in this episode to help save Buffy from facing criminal charges. Yet, really, Ted’s robot body could do the job just as well as the remainders of Ted’s four ex-wives.
Ted Buchanan is a life-like robot. In terms of characterization, the robot displays a personality which slowly goes from too-good-to-be-true to abusive and murderous. The use of drugs and gaslighting on Joyce and the other women are also representative of an abusive individual. As far as the real Ted Buchanan, who invents the robot, one has to wonder if there was a supernatural deal for parts or knowledge. Also, one wonders if Warren Mears (Adam Busch), who will first appear in Season 5, Episode 15, ‘I Was Made to Love You,’ has a connection to the original Ted. This is possible due to the level of robotics they are both capable of.
Joyce Summers does not fully get proper characterization here. She mainly takes her cues from Ted for a good chunk of the episode. Initially, her characterization consists of mostly subtle mannerisms where one can tell she is thinking. These bits of characterization are possibly, and respectively, due to Ted drugging/gaslighting her and her insecurity about dating after a divorce. The remainder of the episode allows us to see her acting smart about Ted’s return and his erratic behavior. Unfortunately, neither Joyce nor the police really question things properly. I mean, did she or the cops ever visit Ted’s place?
One conclusion we can come to with this episode is that the human Ted is better at robotics than Warren; Ted the robot can mostly pass as human. A second conclusion is that Buffy is foolish for not showing Joyce the robot body while revealing she is the Slayer. Instead, she decides to leave her mom wondering if Ted will ever return like a 1980s slasher movie villain. Although, one could argue that this is a bit of revenge for Joyce not believing Buffy about Ted. In the end, though, it is most likely just a case of foolishness.