Characterization In The Buffyverse — ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Season 3, Episode 1

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: Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) lives life as a runaway in Los Angeles. But a chance run-in brings reminders of the past.

(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)

(Trigger warning for mentions of cults and slavery!)

Buffy goes from insecure teenage runaway to powerful huntress and back again. She is seemingly suffering in a similar way to the depression she will have in Season 6. Here, though, she is also too mercurial for one to make a winning argument that it is depression she is feeling in the episode. Thus, it is more likely heartbreak over the events of Season 2 and the trait of avoidance on display. On the plus side of things, Buffy takes charge at the blood bank and the prison. Her acting with authority and utter confidence is something we rarely see in Seasons 1 and 2. Oddly, the time disparity between the different dimensions should make Buffy at least a year or two older, but that never comes up.

Angel (David Boreanaz) only appears in a dream sequence. Thus, there is nothing to nothing of substance to analyze.

Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) and Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland) have about the same amount of time on screen. Unfortunately, neither has any growth — or even any regression — to their respective characterizations.

Oz (Seth Green) gets some small developments here. The primary development is that he is still a Senior at Sunnydale High School. This is unfortunately a character regression that is rather last minute since in the opening he does not know about it. A more positive development on display is his aid to the group’s slaying efforts. Also, he begins to be less verbal here, which is most evident near the beginning of this episode; not to mention his voice is more stoic-sounding than it is in Season 2.

Mr. Miller (James Lurie), Larry Blaisdell (Larry Bagby as Larry Bagby III), and Lily (Julia Lee) are all recurring characters from Season 2 Episode 6, ‘Halloween’; Episode 7, ‘Lie To Me’; and Episode 14, ‘Innocence’ respectively. Yet, Lily (formerly Chanterelle) is the only one of the three who is really in this episode. At the same time, only certain moments of dialogue elevate her from being a generic damsel in distress cypher. Miller and Blaisdell, meanwhile, serve no purpose except to fill out the run time via quick asides.

Rickie (Chad Todhunter) and Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) are essentially just plot devices in this episode. Yes, Willow is usually a main character, but she barely has a presence here.

Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) and Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) both primarily display insecurity and jealousy thoughoutt. Unfortunately, it is nothing new for either of them in Season 3.

Ken (Carlos Jacott) is charismatic. At least as much an obvious social predator can be, anyway. He is just an allegory of a cult leader and slaver in the form of a demon. Like most of cult leaders and slavers, he is perceptive when targeting vulnerable people who he can exploit. His downfall comes about from both his narcissistic personality and grandiose speechifying.

This episode continues the late Season 2 trend of little-to-no character development. Although, both Oz and Lilly — now calling herself Anne — will see follow-through from this episode in future appearances.

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