Characterization In The Buffyverse — ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Season 3, Episode 9

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.

Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) makes a bad wish which results in an alternate universe. Will she be able to set things right?

(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)

This version of Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) appears to be the voice of reason in her friend group when it comes to romance. Though any advice she gives goes in one ear and out the other — especially for Cordelia and Xander (Nicholas Brendon). Also, she seems somewhat smarter and less arrogant than her alternate universe self. This is mainly on display when it comes to attempting to be stealthy and fighting. While she does grandstand at times, she does not waste sneak attacks like her alternate does (Season 1, Episode 2, ‘The Harvest’). Regular Buffy shooting a crossbow bolt at a vampire while other vampires surround her is very stupid. Not to mention attacking The Master head on, and weaponless, suggests she also has a death wish.

Angel (David Boreanaz) is not actually in this episode. Instead we see a rather useless alternate version of him that quickly dies.

The alternate version of Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) is somehow more foolish than the regular version. Note how Giles still uses the library as a headquarters despite the town being overrun by evil demons. One would think that he would use his home as the headquarters due to this problem. Although, the fact that he should arguably be dead due to the alternate universe Eyghon is interesting (Season 2, Episode 8, ‘The Dark Age’). It begs the question if his sense of surety and courage comes partly from not doing so?

Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) and Xander both display aggression in each universe and each version of Willow we meet displays overt aggression. In the main universe, Willow displays it by aggressively begging Oz to take her back. Her alternate self displays it through violence. And while Xander displays passive aggression during his attempt to out laugh Cordelia, his alternate self also displays passive aggression when watching vampire Willow torture Angel.

Cordelia should be the main character of this episode, especially since her wish causes the problem. However, we get very little of her character before she receives her first true “women in refrigerators” moment. In other words, her death occurs to motivate the Giles alternate. There is also a serious dumbing down of her character post-wish. For example, assuming Anya (Emma Caulfield Ford as Emma Caulfield) is some kind of good genie instead of an evil demon makes Cordelia seem extremely ignorant. On the plus side, her crimson revenge dress does fit with her personality.

Oz (Seth Green) serves as a supporting character. Both versions of him have little to nothing to do with the plot.

Harmony Kendall (Mercedes McNab) acts as an antagonist to Cordelia in the main universe. While in the alternate universe, she is a means of exposition.

The Master (Mark Metcalf) is kind of the same in the alternate universe as he is in the main one. Although his major plan to mass-produce blood from humans is evil in a human way — there is no supernatural aspect or ritual to it that this Master employs. Thus, this plan, and his apparently affinity for coffee, suggest he is less into being a vampire than in the main universe. Also, one would think that he would give Angel to a presumably still undead Darla. The fact that he didn’t suggests either her alternate self is dead or off somewhere else in this universe.

Anya has a creepy demonic voice that we will never hear again. Not to mention, her joy at creating a more evil universe kind of gets lost due to this voice. As a consequence, her big speech toward the end of the episode comes across as rather generic baddie of the week. It is also worth mentioning she does not seem to view her position as a vengeance demon as a job while giving the big speech. Instead, it is just more stock villainy. Arguably the most interesting moment is her double take at Xander when Cordelia mentions him improving after meeting Buffy. Therefore, one could say that her interest in Xander possibly starts with this episode.

John Lee (Nathan Anderson) and Cordette #1 (Nicole Bilderback) are plot device characters. They only really serve as examples of the differences between the universes.

Jonathan Levinson (Danny Strong) and Larry Blaisdell (Larry Bagby as Larry Bagby III) are recurring characters who have very little to do. Both are really only around for jokes.

This episode is uneven in terms of characterization considering how large the cast of characters is. Also, certain elements are episodic. For example, Angel almost confessing how he views Buffy as his path to redemption never gets the same treatment as in this episode. These failures to explore and expand things make this episode less than it should be. It is essentially a poor attempt at doing It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) meets the story of the ‘Monkey’s Paw’ (as seen in 1902’s The Lady Of The Barge).

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