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

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: Two students create a Frankenstein analogy and it wants a mate. Also a date happens.

(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)

Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar), along with the majority of the characters, is continuing on from the developments of the last episode; meaning that there is little to no development for anyone in this episode. Instead, Buffy is what I call “a protagonist by way of plot” in this episode. This means she moves the plot along while acting and reacting to its needs. While this may seem similar to a plot device, it differs in that she maintains a personality. An example is how she falls into the open grave while arguing with Angel (David Boreanaz). Another example is the way she assists the subplot of Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) re-entering the dating pool.

Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) has a bit of a character development, though. This occurs subtly —  she smiles at the thought of donuts when Willow (Alyson Hannigan) is suggesting food. This may not seem like much, but it adds some depth to an otherwise stereotypical characterization. She no longer can be seen as purely athletic, or possibly the type to overly worry about her diet/and or looks. Otherwise, she is mostly just a flighty damsel in distress in this episode.

Angel’s characterization falls under the terms “creepy” and “plot device.” The latter due to how he does nothing but assist the plot in certain moments. Case in point: the open grave Buffy falls into and Cordelia falling into a dumpster. He comes off creepy due to comparing his (underage) romantic interest’s friend to a kid. This is a very much a red flag that this is a messy romance. There is also the fact that he unnecessary scares Cordelia.

Rupert Giles acts as if he has not been on a date in a while. Which is somewhat odd due to the hints we gets about his past throughout Buffy The Vampire Slayer‘s seven seasons. However, it is realistic to portray anyone that way at appropriate times in their life. Unfortunately he does not really get any true characterization outside of this. Well, with the exception that we learn that he believes American football is just Rugby with padding.

Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) and Willow Rosenberg have no real character development in this episode. Well, at least no positive developments. Arguably they do have an increase in being very oblivious to what is right in their face. Particularly when Cordelia comes up to them after Xander rescues her. One can also say that Xander and Willow are essentially just continuing their characterizations from the last episode, though I posit that Xander’s speech about love also continues a bit of the creepiness from Season 1, Episode 6 ‘The Pack’. This is due to what he is says and how he is staring at Buffy.

Jenny Calender (Robia Scott as Robia La Morte) has a somewhat fervent interest in sports. This gives her an interest that helps to round out her overall character. Also, it makes her progressive in terms of characterization due to how she now differs from most fictional women on television at the time. When it comes to the date with Giles, she comes across as more confident than him. Yet, she also shows some insecurity about the possibility of a second date. Unfortunately, the only other bit of her characterization is a passing mention of her being a techno pagan.

Chris Epps (Angelo Spizziri), Daryl Epps (Ingo Neuhaus), and Eric (Michael Bacall) are very basic villains. Arguably, Chris and Daryl are less villainous than Eric due to having somewhat relatable motivations. In Chris’s case, he wants to make amends for bringing Daryl back from the dead. Chris and Daryl also share the motivation of not wanting Daryl to be alone. Eric, meanwhile, is apparently lacks a motive beyond wanting to murder girls. Thus, their characterizations are essentially allegories to the three characters from the movie Frankenstein (1931). Chris, Daryl, and Eric respectively translate as Henry Frankenstein, The Monster, and Fritz (the abuser of The Monster) with a touch of Frankenstein.

Mrs. Epps (Melanie MacQueen) and Joy the Cheerleader (Amanda Wilhurst) are essentially obstacles to slow down the episode. Mrs. Epps is also a poor example of what can happen to people mentally due to a loss. As for Joy, she is also there to remind us that Buffy is not in favor in the eyes of her fellow students.

This episode tries and fails to do what will thematically occur in Season 4. Specifically, the theme of “which is worse: man or monster?” Arguably this episode’s villains are less horrific in their motivations than Maggie Walsh and Adam’s. Yes, both sets are horrific, but one has funding and more help. Although Adam has a better ability to be stealthy than Darryl. I mean how does Mrs. Epps, or anyone at the game, not notice Darryl’s existence?

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