Characterization In The Buffyverse — ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Season 3, Episode 17
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: Mayor Richard Wilkins (Harry Groener) enacts a plan. Meanwhile, someone returns a favor to Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head).
(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)
(Trigger warning for mentions of abusive behavior!)
Faith Lehane (Eliza Dushku) has a rush job occur to make her turn to evil feel more permanent. It’s rather obvious in its swiftness when one considers how she seemed hesitant in the last episode (Season 3, Episode 16, ‘Doppelgangland’). There is also a sudden desire to replace Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar). Her reasons occur during offscreen moments, and this makes them narratively weak. Also, it seems she has no prior knowledge of Wilkins’s invulnerability — at least if one considers her reaction to Wilkins healing from the knife wound.
The mayor seems appreciate for Faith as a person, but the way he talks makes it hard to discern the authenticity of his appreciation. Yes, those who know where the show is going know that Wilkins will view Faith as a surrogate daughter. Yet, between here and that realization are multiple episodes. Thus, it is hard to say if he is even near that point of his characterization.
Buffy Summers comes off as insecure about her relationship with Angel (David Boreanaz), apparently rising from the idea that sexual relations between the two of them is the trigger for his curse. This is nonsense due to the curse’s trigger actually being one moment of happiness where Angel forgets his guilt (Season 2, Episode 13, ‘Surprise’), although the notion of what “happiness” will trigger the curse continues to evolve from this point forward. Another development: Buffy feels she has beg for a break from their romance. Fans of this couple may argue that this is not a sign of abuse. Nevertheless, the fact that she is afraid he will leave her for another person — and the majority of his evil actions in Season 2 — give credence to the argument it is a sign.
Angel admits to having no real control over his desires, especially his desire for Buffy. This furthers the idea that there is no real difference between how he is with or without the curse. Further evidence includes how he easily pretends to lose his soul throughout most of this episode. There is also how emotionaly manipulative and possessive he comes across when posing a final question to Buffy. It suggests that he thinks of her as something he can own while throwing her doubt about the ‘break’ in her face.
Oz (Seth Green) only acts as a plot device so the Scoobies can discover more information about the Mayor.
Rupert Giles has another hint of his past occur via the Shrouded Man (Gary Bullock) helping him. Other than that, there is no other clear development for Giles.
Wesley Wyndham-Pryce (Alexis Denisof) is starting to display humility in this episode. Also, his distrust the Watcher’s Council begins to grow. These two points are notable during a particular discussion he has with Giles about working together. At the same time, he is still willing to report Faith to them when he learns of her turn to evil. Lastly, he seems to be less comedically inept in this episode.
Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) does not get any character development in this episode. Her characterization really just centers on having a romantic interest in Wesley.
Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) displays some prejudicial behavior while venting his jealousy about Wesley and Cordelia. Other than this moment his existence in this episode is to act as a plot device to get the Scoobies to Angel’s mansion.
Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) acts as Buffy’s supportive best friend who Buffy can talk to about relationships. She is also a supportive girlfriend to Oz. Willow also acts as a hacker — though her hacking of the Mayor’s files is unsuccessful and occurs mainly off-screen. Finally, there is a little hint of growth via her admittance of sneakily reading magic books.
Skyler (Michael Manasseri) and the Shrouded Man (Gary Bullock) seem to be atypical demonic beings due to how they both help the good side. Nevertheless, they are just plot device characters.
While this episode moves the seasonal plot along, it fails at developing the entirety of the core cast. It also fails to maintain logic for character motivations and actions. This results in things like the demon Skyler seeming atypical in terms of his payment — not to mention that the secret plan the Shrouded Man, Giles, Angel, and Buffy enact is a curveball for even attentive viewers. However, this episode is good in how it foreshadows the end of Buffy and Angel’s romance.