Characterization In The Buffyverse — ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Season 3, Episode 15
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.
The Chosen Two face the aftermath of a bad night out. In the midst of this, Mr Trick (K. Todd Freeman) faces off with them.
(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)
Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Faith Lehane (Eliza Dushku) are both dealing with their respective feelings surrounding the accidental death of Deputy Mayor Allan Finch (Jack Plotnick) (Season 3, Episode 14, ‘Bad Girls’). Considering Buffy kills humans in some of the first episodes, this feels like a standard hazard that can happen (Season 1, Episode 3, ‘The Witch’ and Episode 6, ‘The Pack’). Yet, Buffy feeling guilty is understandable since she has binary view of good and evil — especially in relation to the supernatural and humanity. Faith, however, makes a valid point about the number of people that exist due to the heroes averting various doomsdays. Regrettably, both of the Slayers contradict themselves via their actions throughout the episode. A key example: Faith choosing to work for her replacement authority figure, Mayor Richard Wilkins (Harry Groener), after repeatedly declaring herself an authority onto herself. Thus, both Buffy and Faith turn out to be mostly allegorical puppets that are subject to the needs of this episode’s plot.
Angel (David Boreanaz) and Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) are essentially the positive authority figures in this episode; Angel is an authority on being a murderer while Giles is the mentor/father figure of the Scoobies. Both attempt to help Faith and Buffy, although they both show favoritism in their treatment of Buffy versus Faith. Other than these elements of characterization they don’t see growth in this episode. Also, future episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel will prove Angel to be lying about fully stopping his murderous ways post-curse.
Wesley Wyndham-Pryce (Alexis Denisof) has to go through many verbal hoops to report to the Watcher’s Council. This suggests they don’t think highly of him, and that they possibly sent Wesley to Sunnydale in the hopes of Buffy and Faith dying quickly under his watch. As for reporting Faith, it seems to be both out of a sense of duty and anger. He is obviously mad about the way Giles, Buffy, and the others have been treating him from word one (Season 3, Episode 14, ‘Bad Girls’). Yet, we will also see in various episodes of Angel that his anger and sense of duty also come from trauma. Finally, his attraction to Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) — specifically his initial ability to speak to her — suggests he may be utterly lacking in romantic and sexual experience.
Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) does not get much characterization in this episode. He mostly misconstrues his past fling with Faith as a real connection. This leads to him messing up the current situation by trying to talk to Faith when he shouldn’t. In particular, mentioning “court” is probably, at least in part, what gets Faith to attempt to murder him. Overall his characterization in this episode comes across more as an obvious plot device to move things along.
Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) displays an irrational amount of jealousy towards Faith. Yes, there is Willow’s sense of Buffy and Faith’s friendship negatively impacting her own bond with and Buffy and that is, arguably, where a rational jealously comes from. The irrational part involves Xander. Willow despising Faith for being Xander’s first sexual partner suggests that Willow is not a great friend. At least in the sense that she wants too much say in her friends’ lives and relationships. We will see more of this behavior when she pushes Buffy to date two new people next season. Also, Willow’s final speech against Faith in this episode shows a lack of empathy that she does not apply to others. As an example: Buffy killing Billy “Ford” Fordham (Jason Behr) does not elicit the same reaction as Faith killing Finch (Season 2, Episode 7, ‘Lie To Me’).
Cordelia Chase and Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland) get extremely surface level characterization. Unfortunately, that characterization boils down to a handful of lines and to look female.
Mr. Trick, Mayor Wilkins, and Detective Stein (James MacDonald) are in this episode to help service the plot. They really only do this by acting as authority figure type antagonists to the Slayers. Although, Mr. Trick is only an authority figure in that he acts as a counterpoint to Angel while working for the Mayor. While Stein may or may not know about the Mayor being evil, he is apparently just doing his job. Oddly, Wilkins admits to a lack of evidence to Finch’s murder. Thus, one would think it would quickly become a cold case that only slightly impacts Wilkins politically. Nevertheless, Wilkins makes that newsworthy speech about wanting to find Finch’s murderer.
This episode continues the trend of a big cast of characters with shallow characterization. On the plus side, Buffy’s personal views (mainly “humans must live, demons can die”) see some cementing here.