Characterization In The Buffyverse — ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Season 3, Episode 6

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.

Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) faces the dread of the SATs. Meanwhile, Mayor Richard Wilkins (Harry Groener) and Mr. Trick (K. Todd Freeman) outsource an evil scheme.

(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)

Buffy acts with a lot of teenaged impulsiveness in this episode, particularly when it comes to driving without properly knowing how. While being a terrible driver is now one of Buffy’s traits, it will never see exploration outside of this episode. We also see her using a lie that is rather standard for teenagers — declaring she going to one place versus wherever she actually will be. Though this lie usually occurs with a group of teenagers using each other as their alibis. Other than being a terrible driver, and proving to be an effective liar, Buffy does not get any new character development.

Angel (David Boreanaz) has another odd post-hell-dimension moment (the puts-on-pants-yet-feral bit from Season 3, Episode 4, “Beauty And The Beasts” is the first). He comes across like he is physically unwell; an odd choice considering how he seemed to be mentally unwell in the previous episode (Season 3, Episode 5, ‘Homecoming’). Furthermore, we see no obvious physical injuries on him to account for his behavior. So he may be milking this situation a bit to get back into Buffy’s good graces.

Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) and Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland) get to act like co-parents in this episode when they catch Buffy in the location lie. At the same time, Joyce acts like she is lacking experience when she gives Buffy a new locale (“The Bronze”) to lie about being at. Despite this failure at parenting, it is a massive development for Giles and Joyce to work together like they do. They also mirror each other slightly with how Joyce is more responsible than Giles while under the effects of the spell. We also get the sense that regular adult Giles is hiding a lot more ruthlessness than we will ever see. Sadly, this is also possibly where Joyce and Giles stop being a legitimate romance — although these last two points will see further discussion in future installments of this column.

Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) and Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) continue to act odd and rather obvious about their affair. Other than that, they are mostly the same as before the start of it.

Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) misses the obvious in this episode due to the needs of the plot involving Xander and Willow. Otherwise, her characterization is rather consistent when compared to past episodes.

Principal Snyder (Armin Shimerman) gets a little character growth with this episode while the spell is going on. We learn his teenage self is the powerless “take me with you” sort. Also, he is after almost any woman he can get. It is also worth mentioning that while he knows about demons, he is not really privy to the Mayor’s plans. After the spell ends we see a return to the power-mad principal we typically see from him.

Oz (Seth Green) does not have any real character growth in this episode. The only thing that might remotely be seen as growth is him being uncomfortable after Snyder compliments his hair.

Mr. Trick and Ethan Rayne (Robin Sachs) get character growth in that they run in the same villainous circle as a mutual acquaintance. Other than that (and their fashion senses), they share very little in common. Yet, one could see Rayne as a mirror to Mr. Trick. At least in as much as Rayne, a sorcerer, fears a vampire (Mr. Trick) who fears a sorcerer (Mayor Wilkins). Although, the fact that Rayne does not know about the babies being a tribute can allow one to argue he may have some morals. As for Mr. Trick, he displays stupidity by challenging the Slayer after admitting he allows others to do his dirty work. Granted this can be blamed on the plot needing Giles to be in danger versus anything else.

Mayor Wilkins seems to care about his town; he wants to fix the sewer infrastructure, for example. But the fact he is in the sewer at all is inconsistent with his established hate for germs. Although, if he has a legitimate fear of germs or not is a question that really never gets an answer. A more understandable character trait is his ability to call off vampire attacks during this episode’s town-wide mayhem, at least according to Buffy’s observations. Lastly, he displays overconfidence by conducting his supernatural business (meeting Mr. Trick and having a cabinet of shrunken skulls) where his mayoral meetings also take place.

Ms. Barton (Peggy Stewart as Peg Stewart) is a gag character that is in this episode mostly for a joke about marijuana. She also serves as a plot device for Giles’s absence as a monitor for a class.

This episode features a lot of humorous and cringey moments that make it entertaining. Still, it is rather poor when one considers that the main characters do not develop in any substantial way.

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