Characterization In The Buffyverse — ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Season 2, Episode 19

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.

Ghostly lovers endanger the slayer’s school. Meanwhile, Angelus (David Boreanaz) attempts another plot.

(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)

(Warning of mentions of child predation.)

Grace Newman (Meredith Salenger as Meredith Salinger) and James Stanley (Christopher Gorham) are generic characters. The only real characterization we get for them is that, whether ghost or human, they are both bad at communication.

Angelus, Drusilla (Juliet Landau), and Spike (James Marsters) are arguably unnecessary additions to this episode’s cast of characters. Although, we do see Drusilla’s mental illness and prophetic ability get a stronger display here. Another thing on display is Spike as a somewhat sympathetic person due to his hurt and jealousy in relation to Drusilla being Angelus’s creature/creation/victim. We also see Spike using guile to deceive the two when it comes to the progress of his healing, and how he goads Angelus into attempting to kill Buffy. As for Angelus: other than the fact that we see his revulsion towards love, we learn that he likes high end locales. The electric lighting in the mansion also gives away that Angelus has funds of some amount.

Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is similar to James as they both have love interests that have more control over the dynamic of their respective relationships. Yes, Buffy’s love interest will have a future reveal that shows how he is (more) predatory, but Grace has more power than James due to being an adult. Grace and Angelus are also more experienced to due being older, and thus, both are essentially in mentor positions they both take advantage of. Buffy still blames herself for Angelus’s return to evil at the end of this episode, illustrating a self-harming trait to her personality; one that arguably ties into a savior complex she has due to being a slayer. Yet, the self-harming trait still originates with the manipulations of Angelus when he talks about her being a lousy lover (Season 2, Episode 14, ‘Innocence’).

Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) gets no character development in this episode. On the plus side, not stopping the murder of Mrs. Frank (Miriam Frank) by George (John Hawkes) is only a slight regression. Yes, he may not have been physically able to reach them in time to stop the murder, but in not even trying, his characterization in this episode is arguably no better (or worse) than it was in Season 1. Although, one can argue that him seeing the murder occurring after Grace Newman’s ghost speaks to him is why he believes it to be Jenny Calender (Robia Scott as Robia La Morte).

Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) attempts a spell without Giles’s help for the first time. This, plus the fact that she researches the spell on her own, gives us the start of her shift from hacker to spell caster. Yet, it is arguable what makes the spell go wrong in this episode (presumably it would alsobe a combination of the ghosts’ motives and the Hellmouth). Whatever the case for the spell not working, we can see Willow using logic in a time where others, even Giles, are letting emotions rule.

Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) and Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) have very little reason to be in this episode. Much like Drusilla, they only give a few bits of commentary on the situation involving the ghostly lovers. Of the two, only Cordelia has some form of character development: choosing to help try and spell the ghosts away after suffering an injury that could leave a scar. Yes, there is also the fact that she chooses to sit with the group, but that act is just a continuation from the end of Season 2, Episode 16, ‘Bewitched, Bothered, And Bewildered.’

Mr. Miller (James Lurie), Mrs. Frank, and George all have characterization as stock as Fighting Boy (Brian Poth) and Fighting Girl (Sarah Bibb). Though, like Buffy and Angelus, they are just acting in a way that the spirits of Grace and James dictate.

Principal Snyder (Armin Shimerman) and Police Chief Bob (Brian Reddy) have yet another conspiratorial meeting (Season 2, Episode 3, ‘School Hard’). Like the last one, this meeting suggests various city officials know about the Hellmouth. Whether Snyder is fearful of the Mayor because he fears for his own life or just his job is always going to be in question. What does become clear: Bob is at least one step higher in this corrupt power structure than Snyder. We also learn that Bob is less clever than Snyder as he accepts the principal’s lie about the snake infestation.

This episode’s cast of characters is immense, but the frequent repetition of dialogue limits the amount of character development. Not to mention there is no explanation why the ghosts don’t possess any of the other school-invading vampires before this episode in order to resolve things.

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