Characterization In The Buffyverse — ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Season 1, Episode 7
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.
(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)
Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is inconsistent when it comes her level of physical prowess. This occurs when she is able to avoid Darla’s guns, but can’t deal with three vampires. Other characteristics appear thanks to romance. On the one hand, we get her acting like she and Angel have more onscreen moments than have actually occur by this point. On the other, we actually get to see how Buffy acts like a teenager with a romantic interest. Though this bit of characterization is very cliché, it is still a development for her.
Angel (David Boreanaz) talks about of his past — specifically regarding his curse. While most will view the dialogue as important to his characterization, it isn’t the most relevant thing in this episode. Yes, we will get more explorations of both his past and the curse, but it is his dark tone of voice when relating these facts which adds to his character. This tone will be the basis for the broodier versions of Angel going forward.
As for his vamping while kissing Buffy, it is arguably a good example of him lacking control. No matter his moniker or persona, Angel is more base in nature than he lets on. It is something we will see at various times on both shows. Thus, one can argue that his trait of constantly wanting control over others, including Buffy, also starts in this episode. We’ll have to wait to explore this more in the seasonal wrap-up installment of this column, though.
Darla (Julie Benz) feels older in this episode then in the beginning of the show. She is also less devious than how she will subsequently appear on Angel. That said, she is still inventive by using guns when fighting Angel and Buffy. It’s something you would think more villains might try in later episodes. We also get hints of her as a seductress and a sadist here. The first is when she is talking with Angel in his apartment. The latter occurs when she executes the three vampires.
Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) does not get a lot of focus in this episode. This is both a good and bad thing. In terms of character development, all we get is Xander doing some quick thinking during the final fight scene. Both this, and the lack of focus after the last few episodes, are definitely the good. The bad: we get nothing else of substance for him.
Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) comes off as a girl lost to romanticism. An example of this is the scene where she describes Angel’s sleeping on Buffy’s floor. There is a bit of realism at the tail-end, though. Such as during the scene where she mentions Angel and Buffy possibly having kids. Other than these bits of characterization, she gets no real change to her character.
Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) gets a little addition to his characterization in two ways. One is his knowledge of combat; though his prowess seems less than what future revelations of his past will suggest. For example, when he takes on a cop in Season 3, Episode 6, he is much tougher. Also, we see a small hinting of his future as a father figure to Buffy. This occurs during his two scenes with Joyce (Kristine Sutherland) at the hospital and when Buffy questions him about a vampire nature’s after her first kiss with Angel.
The Master (Mark Metcalf), Collin/The Anointed One (Andrew J. Ferchland), Joyce Summers, and Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) are guest appearances at best in this episode. Well, except for Collin, who is a plot device with a voice augmentation. As for The Master, he still comes off as less of a threat than he should be. Arguably, he gets a dumber portrayal since he allows Darla to kill off minions. Joyce and Cordelia, meanwhile, are still rather stock, but they at least get the illusion of being characters. This occurs for Joyce with her disapproval of Angel, and her incident with “the utensil.” Cordelia simply getting more screen time allows for her to seem like a character.
This episode, unlike other episodes, is more about small progress and retroactive continuity, like introducing the importance in having a soul. Demons apparently now lack for one despite Giles’s initial explanation to the group in Episode 2. We also get dialogue from Darla about how soulless creatures can love. In other words, this episode may epitomize — at least to some viewers — how inconsistent this universe’s rules are.