Characterization In The Buffyverse — ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Season 1, 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.
(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)
Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) has a bit of inconsistency occur with her characterization in this episode; specifically when she is attacked by Sid (Tom Wyner) in her bedroom. She reacts as if she does not have superpowers and is unable to handle things jumping at her. Otherwise she is still the character we know. Unfortunately, we only get two new developments to her character. The first being the reveal that she fears dummies. While the second is a lack of acting ability (at least when it comes to stage acting).
Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) officiating the talent show reveals a little bit of new characterization — even though it is only just the fact that he takes his duties as a school official seriously. There is also the still reoccurring problem of him being dismissive of both the supernatural and Buffy. Yes, he at first has no reason to believe the initial murder has to do with demons. Nonetheless, prior episodes — such as the one immediately preceding this — prove that he is too dismissive of Buffy and demons (Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 1, Episode 8 ‘I Robot, You Jane’). Lastly, we do get to see early signs of his former persona of Ripper when he pranks Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter).
Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) gets some throwaway dialogue about being a suspect in the murders. Yet, the fact she does this arguably says that she thinks she is capable of murder. We also see how insecure she still is when she performs in the talent show. Although, she displays some confidence and enthusiasm at various times throughout this episode; such as when she suggests the idea of secretly recording a confession from their initial suspect, Morgan Shay (Richard Werner).
Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) gets to display more goofy and appropriate humor in this episode. His previous jokes being kind of creepy or off-color (though this is somewhat a matter of opinion since humor is subjective). Other than that, we don’t really get too much characterization from him. Well, other than the small detail of him, Giles, and Willow, not trusting Buffy about Sid attacking her. This particular bit of bad characterization is something that the group will continue to exhibit in the future.
Sid uses his confidence to hide his weariness — his weariness being due to the length of the hunt he has been undertaking. We even get some dialogue about this during his discussions with Buffy. Though we also get examples of him being a womanizer both as a dummy and as a human via dialogue. While he is sympathetic, his womanizing is problematic considering he hits on underage females.
Cordelia Chase, Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland), Principal Snyder (Armin Sherman), Morgan Shay, and Marc (Burke Roberts) are all supporting characters at best; though Joyce and Cordelia barely get any characterization. However, Cordelia and Snyder do make impressions with certain character traits. The former’s horrible singing will eventually crop up again in Angel. Snyder’s ability to show up at the worst times for Buffy, and giving school activities as punishments, will occur in various future episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Finally Morgan and Marc serve as suspects, and each help further the plot in their own way.
When it comes to this episode, one could say that the lack of characterization is weak. Though not as weak as the brainstorming that results in Buffy, Willow, and Xander choosing to act. I mean, they come up with Buffy pretending to slay which they could improv. Instead they all do a scene from Oedipus Rex (429 BC). Talk about a reason to run!