Characterization In The Buffyverse –‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Season 3, Episode 11

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: Sunnydale faces a new threat. Yet, can the Slayer and her friends win while it manipulates the town?

(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)

Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is apparently back in a relationship with Angel (David Boreanaz) despite the always-present danger — although, this is just a suggestion as the pair appear together in only one scene. She is also apparently the protector/terror of her school’s student body, as seen when she terrifies a bully. There is some character growth in two different, and weird, ways. Apparently she now believes, despite previous battles, that the Slayer can’t kill humans that deal in the supernatural (Season 1, Episode 6 ,’The Pack’ and Season 2, Episode 5, ‘Reptile Boy’). Also, she apparently is against her mom helping with the slaying despite making exceptions for her friends. Both are weird due to how one limits her effectiveness and the other limits her mother’s safety.

Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland) and Sheila Rosenberg (Jordan Baker) are essentially just allegories for parents that have more interest in causes than their own children in this episode. While Sheila does not — and will not — get development, viewers do see Joyce attempt to take an active role in helping Buffy.

Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) gets a little development in that he apparently still feels an attraction to Joyce. Other than that development, he is just a font of expositional knowledge who can provide magical assistance.

Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) shows herself to be moving more into magic. In particular: her knowledge of ingredients, symbols, and trying to associate with other practitioners. There is also the sense that her parents are so inattentive that she has to raise herself for the most part. This is on display when she argues with her mother to see her as an individual and a teen. Although, this scene is rather odd when one considers that, by the end of the episode, she leaves her mother in the dark about the supernatural.

Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) and Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) are both self-regarding in this episode. Cordelia when she insults The Scoobies for no reason other than she is still hurt by Xander’s betrayal. Xander, meanwhile, wants focus on the possibility of the police and Principal Snyder (Armin Shimerman) discovering his adult magazines despite Willow being in more trouble. Arguably, Xander might be worrying about repercussions from his parents, especially his allegedly abusive father. It is a matter of perspective whether either’s actions to help stop the monster fully make-up for these respective moments.

Oz (Seth Green), Angel (David Boreanaz), Amy Madison (Elizabeth Anne Allen) and Michael Czajak (Blake Soper as Blake Swendson) are mostly extraneous characters in this episode’s cast. Oz is either helping Xander or being Willow’s love interest. Angel serves as Buffy’s love interest while unintentionally giving her a clue about the monster. Amy and Michael (along with Willow) serve briefly as red herrings and victims of the mob. Amy also serves to show the dangers of magic in a literal way. While Michael seems to be an allegorical gay/outsider character. Overall, none of them have character development, or really impact the plot.

Principal Snyder and Mayor Richard Wilkins (Harry Groener) just seem to be going along with the chaos in this episode. Whether they are immune to the magical manipulation or not is unclear. Neither really gets character development in this episode. However, one could argue that Snyder appears to get some revenge on Giles for previously threatening him (Season 3, Episode 2, ‘Dead Man’s Party’). Another argument one can make: this episode’s monster is interfering with Wilkins’s plans. Thus, one would think that Wilkins would be doing something to stop it.

Demon (Roger Morrissey, Lindsay Taylor, and Shawn Pyfrom) is a rather generic, episodic threat. The most that one can debatably say about its characterization is that it is stupid for running into Buffy’s pillar.

This episode is mostly skippable in terms of characterization. Nevertheless, it does have a few important moments beyond Amy becoming a rat — such as the first real insistence of Buffy’s no killing humans rule.

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