Characterization In The Buffyverse — ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Season 2, Episode 17

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.

Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) and Jenny Calendar/Janna of the Kalderash (Robia Scott as Robia LaMorte) attempt to reconnect as a couple. Meanwhile, Angelus (David Boreanaz) enacts a deadly assault.

(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)

Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) displays a lack of logical thought in this episode;  so do all the other characters, though. She mainly fails by not acting on the best course of action to protect her mother, Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland), by forcing Giles to help her reveal the truth of the supernatural. Also, she lacks a ready to go stake when she fights Angelus. Then we see her blaming herself for Jenny’s death upon learning of it. This leads, somewhat, into admitting her need for Giles as a father figure.

Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) acts mainly as comic relief in this episode and the comedy he provides is either sexist or cringe-inducing. He also serves as an entry point character to ask questions and boil topics down for the viewer. Other than a bit where he expresses his feelings about Angelus, there isn’t too much more to his characterization. While the majority of this specific dialogue makes Xander come off as a jerk, he does make a valid point about someone having to stop Angelus.

Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) gets a plot specific character moment of clumsiness with the disk containing the curse. But this is at the end of the episode, and thus only foreshadows future events. Other than this scene, one can’t successfully argue that she does anything of importance in this episode. Unfortunately, she also gets a toxic bit of dialogue when she tries to spin Angelus’s behavior in a positive way. Specifically, she equates his actions as being similar to his Angel personality via its focus on Buffy.

Giles and Jenny essentially become a tragic couple due to three factors. First: they never get to know each other beyond the surface. This is due to the aftermaths of a demon possessing Jenny, and the revelation of her past (Season 2, Episode 8, ‘The Dark Age’ and Season 2, Episode 14, ‘Innocence,’ respectively). Factor two: she dies in this episode when they are on the verge of reconciling. Finally, she tells him she loves him shortly before her death, which in turn forcies Giles and the rest of the main characters to mature. Also, it should be said, Giles, Jenny, Xander, Willow, and Buffy all display arrogance and stupidity by not considering the school unsafe at night.

Drusilla (Juliet Landau) and Spike (James Marsters) are now supporting villains. I say this due to their interaction with Angelus, where we get the implication that Angelus and Drusilla are a couple now. Spike’s characterization shows him as an unwilling minion to Angelus and a third party to the new couple. Drusilla also acts as a minion to Angelus, but one who is willing and his second-in-command. She also displays her power of foresight in this episode when she foresees Jenny’s scheme to re-curse Angelus. Lastly, we see her vanity with the way she enjoys Angelus and Spike fighting over her.

Angelus comes across as an unusual narrator for this episode, although, he is rather poetic in this role. He also pretends to be a normal human ex-boyfriend stalking Buffy when he terrorizes Joyce. This, plus his ‘gifting’ Buffy the art and the corpses to Giles and Willow, really gets across how unstable he’s become. While this episode finally displays his villainy more actively, it doesn’t show him as any more villainous than any mentally ill human on any other television show.

Joyce Summers, Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter), Jonathan Levinson (Danny Strong), and the Shopkeeper (Richard Assad) all have stock characterization. Joyce is the mother who disapproves, but tries to understand and protect her daughter. Cordelia is the clueless, pretty, and popular member of the teen group. Jonathan and the Shopkeeper mostly appear for comedic effect — though the Shopkeeper also provides some exposition in relation to current events.

While this episode has a good deal of plot progression, as well as emotional moments, there isn’t much growth for the characters. Meanwhile, the characterization that does exist is plot-centric in relation to this episode’s character death.

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