Characterization In The Buffyverse — ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Season 2, Episode 14

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.

This week: The Slayer’s first love returns to the dark side. Meanwhile, the Judge (Brian Thompson) goes on the attack.

(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)

Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is very foolish in this episode; mainly in that she walks away from Angelus instead of capturing him or gravely wounding him. Also, she attacks Jenny Calender (Robia Scott as Robia LaMorte) in front of witnesses. This episode also sees the debut of her tendency to unnecessarily blame herself for things which are not her fault. Yes, she is sort of at fault for Angel/Angelus’s (David Boreanaz) curse breaking, but that is only due only to sleeping with him. Since she didn’t know how she matches his previous victims, nor his curse’s escape clause, she really shouldn’t blame herself.

Angelus is briefly in his Angel persona in this episode during a moment he seems to realize his soul is leaving him. After the soul leaves, Angelus quickly goes back to his evil, but in a very arrogant and foolish way. He gives up potential advantages by revealing his turn to evil to Buffy and her friends. Yes, he kills Jenny’s Uncle Enyos (Vincent Schiavelli) — somehow, Angelus knows about him — and tries to kill Willow, but he could be doing so much more damage. He could kidnap Buffy’s mom, for example, and turn her into a vampire before Buffy learns of his switch to the dark side.

Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) is “just in” this episode. Yes, he contributes by interrupting Buffy’s attack/interrogation of Jenny. But if one examines his relevance to the episode, there isn’t much here. His help in the recovery of the Judge’s body and agreeing with Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) about Xander Harris’s (Nicholas Brendon) reckless charge to action are the only other things of note. I believe his dismissal of Jenny in their time of crisis is more an action of plot convenience than the characterization of an intelligent, yet hurting, individual.

Jenny Calender comes off as weaker and stupider here than necessary. Yes, she is smart for coming to the realization that she, Uncle Enyos, and their tribe have been foolish with the vengeance-seeking. However, she should have come clean to Giles before her discussion with Enyos. Plus, she is capable of magic and yet does nothing to Angelus except hold a cross to him. It helps save Willow, but it does not allow Jenny to be a strong, intelligent character. Not to mention the protective or misdirection spells she could be using against Angelus. Yet, neither this nor learning more about the curse spell occur in this episode.

Xander Harris reacts in two stupid ways in this episode. First, he initially goes along with Angelus telling him to get the others. He doesn’t even question it or make a rude comment. While this would show character progression, it doesn’t due to him acting nonchalant when they presume Angel is missing. Secondly, he assumes he — with or without help — can do anything against three evil demons. This is also a moment in which he displays his obsession with Buffy and how he thinks she needs more protection than she does

Cordelia Chase is smart in this episode, at least when it comes to pointing out Xander has no plan and that they have no hope against the villains. She also rightly points out Xander’s obsession with Buffy. Thus, one can see why she is hesitant to have an actual relationship with Xander. She also demonstrates tact by not following Xander after a fleeing Willow, though one could argue that is partly out of concern for her social status.

Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) is kind of petty and overly immature here in regard to Xander and Cordelia being together. Also, she has Oz (Seth Green) yet still wants Xander, which is odd considering she rejected Xander in Season 1, Episode 12, ‘Prophecy Girl’. Also, I’ll argue her willingness to follow Xander’s charge to action without a plan shows immaturity. All of which is to say she is a plot device in this episode to aid the progress Xander and Cordelia’s relationship.

Oz, Uncle Enyos, and The Judge are more or less of the same importance as the Woman (Carla Sofia as Carla Madden) Angel kills. While all three help advance the plot, only Oz truly gets good characterization. Yes, Enyos gets some characterization, but he mainly comes off as a repetitive exposition machine in human form. Whereas Oz not only serves as the Scoobies driver for their mission to steal the rocket launcher, but as a very insightful and fair love interest for Willow. The Woman and The Judge, meanwhile, serve only as plot devices to help illustrate Angelus’s evil.

Spike (James Marsters), Drusilla (Juliet Landau), and Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland) are essentially side characters in this episode. Yet, all of them should get more to do. For example, Joyce should have at least heard about Buffy attacking Jenny because of all the witnesses — not to mention how she can tell that something negative is going on with Buffy. Also, Spike and Drusilla should have some level of concern about The Judge’s declaration of Angelus having zero humanity. Yes, Drusilla is insane and they are both initially happy about Angelus’s return. Nevertheless, when a demon who burns humanity declares his saviors unworthy and their former leader the worthy one should really think on that.

This episode is very weak on characterization, although that may be a consequence of the focus on Angelus. Also, it is the conclusion of a two-part story that has a very illogical dream sequence/plot device.


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