Characterization In The Buffyverse — ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Season 2, Episode 1

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 reference to real world events in this bi-weekly series.

In this episode, Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) deals with her feelings about her death at the hands of The Master (Mark Metcalf). Meanwhile, the villain’s followers enact a plan to bring him back to undead status.

(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)

Buffy shows some good character development and characterization in the Season 2 premiere. This is mainly illustrated by her growth as a more competent, and apparently confident, fighter. Through her negative actions, we also see she does not handle trauma well. Though what sixteen-year-old truly does? Especially when they can’t fully express their trauma to a therapist. Although this does make her more relatable; we all have moments where we act out when words fail. Unfortunately this is where the good characterization arguably stops.

Buffy’s bad character development, and characterization, comes in two forms. The main one is that she never gets to deal with trauma in a healthy way. Of course, that is true of literally all of the characters, but especially for one who should have a special therapist. Meaning Rupert Giles’s (Anthony Stewart Head) bosses should be assigning therapists with knowledge of the supernatural to slayers. Not to mention Angel (David Boreanaz) is stalking her — and though she accuses him of it, she still views it as romantic. This all culminates in a very unhealthy character for real people to model aspects of their lives after.

Rupert Giles gets a romantic interest in Jenny Calender (Robia Scott as Robia La Morte). Arguably this is the healthiest romance we will see in this show or on Angel. Also, Giles is slightly more useful for gaining and giving information in this episode. Unfortunately, he is not a true help to Buffy or the group throughout this episode. For instance, he should be taking the time over the break to relocate — or magically protect — their base of operations after the final event of last season. When it comes to Buffy, he notices problems, but does not offer a possible solution.

Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) and Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) progress somewhat. Unfortunately, the possibility of a romantic relationship is both a reset for Willow and a slight progression for Xander. In Willow’s case, she’s back to having a hopeless crush on Xander. The almost-kiss between them is progress for Xander in the sense that he briefly notices her. But as soon as the vampire and Buffy show up, they are essentially back to their early Season 1 characterizations. The arguable exception to this reset is their new negative trait of trying to dictate how Buffy should act.

Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) and Jenny Calendar border on being standard recurring characters. Though both get (arguably) decent lines to deliver, they are not equal in characterization. For instance, Jenny is shown as a love interest for Giles instead of a real addition to the group. Whereas Cordelia shows some growth from Season 1; particularly in how she tries to give advice to Buffy and actually wants to talk publicly with the group. Yet, one can argue that neither character is fully a member of the group due as no one immediately notices their sudden disappearances.

Collin/The Anointed One (Andrew J. Ferchland), Principal Snyder (Armin Shimeran), and Absalom (Brent Jennings) have about the same level of screen time. However, Collin/The Anointed One is not really a character so much as a way to move the plot along. Principal Snyder, meanwhile, is more of a straight man for jokes. Nevertheless, he does have a few moments where his tyrannical tendencies shine through. Unfortunately, the one-off vampire villain Absalom is neither a straight man or a simple plot device. Instead he comes off as a “magical negro” stereotype due to being knowledgeable about things the white villains are not.

Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland), Hank Summers (Dean Butler), and Angel all are arguably two-dimensional here. In the case of Joyce and Hank, they just verge on that two-dimensional status. This is mostly due to their conversation about trying (and failing) to connect with Buffy. Yes, they are both somewhat failing as parents to notice obvious things, but the attempt at helping makes them believable at least. Angel is much the same with trying to help while missing the obvious problems Buffy is dealing with. Yet, one can argue that he comes close to being a three-dimensional character with his stalking and belittling of Buffy (the latter occurs when Buffy taunts him near the Bronze).

In conclusion this episode is both a re-establishing of the show and an example of where it will go. It reestablishes who the characters are by displaying what is the same via certain resets while keeping some of the Season 1 character growth, such as Cordelia being nicer. The suggestion of where the show is going is on display via Angel’s stalking of Buffy and her torturing a vampire. In other words, things are going to get dark and unhealthy.

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