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.
Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) get into a high school level rivalry. Meanwhile, a new foe of the Slayers arranges a meeting with one of their old foes.
(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)
(Trigger Warnings for mentions of physical and sexual abuse and addiction!)
Buffy’s characterization is a bit regressive in this episode. This occurs in two ways: her fun, and flirty, conversation with Faith (Eliza Dushku) and the race for “Queen.” With the former, her behavior is similar to in the first episode (Season 1, Episode 1, “Welcome To The Hellmouth”). While the latter displays a pre-Sunnydale mentality, as she mentions in this episode, although this also combines with her desire for what she considers to be a normal life. Lastly, her flinching in reaction to Angel’s (David Boreanaz) movement suggests she still suffers mentally and emotionally from his past abuse as Angelus.
Scott Hope (Fab Filippo) finally gets a tiny bit of a personality. Unfortunately, it is a prototype of the personality future character Riley Finn (Marc Blucas) will have throughout Seasons 4 and 5. As an example, Scott displays the same view of Buffy as Riley: she is an energetic enigma. They both initially see Buffy as less of a person. Thus, they also face disappointment and in turn go to others to relieve it.
Angel (David Boreanaz) and Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) have only brief bits of characterization which sees them mirroring each other. In Giles’s case, he is a gag character with his lines being set-up for humorous moments like shocking Xander and Willow at the dance. Angel, meanwhile, is a source of angst for Buffy due to their history. Also Angel comes across like an addict for blood who is seconds from withdrawal.
Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) and Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) get a very sudden moment of mutual attraction which depends on the build-up of Willow’s past feelings from prior episodes (ie, Season 2, Episode 1, ‘When She Was Bad’). Yes, Xander admits that he loves Willow in Season 2, but she is unconscious at the time (Season 2, Episode 22, ‘Becoming: Part 2’). This moment will have greater impact on their respective characterizations in later episodes. For now, though, it just causes angst and moping.
Cordelia Chase shows a growth in her confidence by how she handles the vampire Lyle Gorch (Jeremy Ratchford). Yet, her other actions and overall personality mirror Buffy’s own in an episodic way.
Faith does try to be a real friend to Buffy in this episode when they have a conversation about the dance. She also acts protective, if in a harmful way, by possibly telling a lie about Scott Hope’s health. We should keep in mind, though, that while she is lying there may be a bit of truth to it for Scott. Unfortunately, her age and the way she talks about casual sex again hints at a history of abuse. Lastly, Faith’s actions and Buffy’s reactions in conversation verge a bit on flirting.
Lyle Gorch, Mr. Trick (K. Todd Freeman), Candy Gorch (Lee Everett) Old Man (Ian Abercrombie), Hans (Joseph Daube), Frederick (Jermyn Daube), Frawley (Billy Maddox) Kulak (Chad Stahelski) all have interesting looks. Unfortunately they all act like stock characters who only exist to give the episode an action plot line.
Oz (Seth Green) is really just Willow’s boyfriend in this episode. He says lines, and does actions, only in relation to her.
Jonathan Levinson (Danny Strong), Mayor Richard Wilkins (Harry Groener), and Deputy Mayor Allan Finch (Jack Plotnick) get minimal characterization. What is there is not notable here, but will lead to things in the future.
This episode features a few character moments that I personally disagree with, but it’s still good to see the actual use of so many characters.