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 faces a werewolf and a werewolf hunter. Meanwhile, secrets abound among Sunnydale High’s student body.
(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)
Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) gets inconsistent characterization in this episode. For instance, she acts like she resents pretending to be an average girl in gym class. This is odd when one thinks of how many times in this show she will talk about hating having superpowers. She also talks about her sense of responsibility in a disdainful-sounding and brief aside to Cain (Jack Conley), but she doesn’t save anyone in this story. Instead, Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) saves her!
Angelus (David Boreanaz) is mostly in this episode to remind viewers he is still evil. Other than that, there isn’t too much more to his characterization. Yes, he uses Theresa Klusmeyer (Megahn Perry) as a way to mess with Buffy. But it really only assists viewers looking for a reminder of the Buffyverse timeline.
Xander jumps to a lot of conclusions and rants a lot in this episode. His conclusions serve only to help minor character Larry Blaisdell (Larry Bagby as Larry Bagby III) come out. Well, that and he accidentally reveals his memory of being possessed by a Hyena spirit (Season 1, Episode 6, ‘The Pack’). Other than some level of embarrassment, this revelation sees him facing no retribution. He doesn’t even apologize for lying or his past actions. As for his ranting, it occurs at odd times, such as when he is making out with Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter). I feel that his jealously of Oz (Seth Green) and possessiveness of Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) — plus the lack of repercussions for his past and present actions — makes him a scummy jerk.
Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) seems to be trying to be a real girlfriend to Xander in this episode. She calls him on his stupid ranting and raving about other girls. Also, she is willing to drive him home while clearly upset with him. To me, this means she is at least trying to treat their romance as a real thing. We also see her and Willow actually talking to each as if they are friends. Although, that last detail is both inconsistent characterization for her and Willow and rather socially regressive since they are only complaining about their guys.
Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) is like Angel in that he really doesn’t serve much purpose in this episode. He essentially regresses to being his Season 1 self for much of this episode. He is mostly ineffectual in dangerous situations, expounds a lot of information, and at times seems to not have a libido or even an understanding of sex. Examples of all three are on display at different points when he and Buffy search during the second night of the full moon.
Willow and Oz are essentially metaphor characters in this episode. Yes, we get Oz freaking out about his new supernatural status. Though if one looks at it as a metaphor, it is just a fearful reaction to hair growth and out of control emotions. Throw in Willow and Oz’s conversation about a small part of the month being bad for them personally and you have them simply discussing the effects of puberty. That said, the amount of talk of things like sex, hair, and hormones makes this obvious. When it comes to their character development, both individually and mutually, the only progress here is Oz’s new status and solidifying that they are, in fact, a couple.
Larry Blaisdell, Cain, and Theresa are all supporting characters for this episode. They are also all minor antagonists. Theresa is barely a character, but she does have some personality before becoming (and then dying as) a vampire. While both Larry and Cain act and talk in sexist ways, one could say Larry is only trying to play ‘straight’. Thus, one can argue Larry goes from being an unsympathetic character, like Cain, to becoming somewhat sympathetic like Theresa. As for Cain, he is an episodic villain who arguably should know who the Slayer is. Also, he is one of the few villains who never gets a comeuppance.
This episode shows a lack of focus when it comes to both the plot and Buffy as the lead character. The former due to various pointless character moments, and the latter due to Xander, Willow, and Oz getting more screen time.