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: A vampire-worshiping club pops up in Sunnydale with plans to trap the Slayer. Meanwhile, a face from the Buffy’s past comes to town.
(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)
Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) shows maturity in how she handles the various betrayals of trust in this episode — particularly when it comes to her confrontation with Angel (David Boreanaz). Also, we see some expert-level strategizing with how she assesses the best way to stop the vampires at the club. Her ability to convincing lie, however, remains consistently weak. And her super-strength and fighting ability are still somewhat inconsistent. She does not try and rip the door or a wall off, for example; not to mention Ford rather easily knocks her out.
Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) gets some development in the form of her relationship with her parents. Specifically, that they appear somewhat conservative when it comes to rules. In this case, the rule of not allowing boys in Willow’s bedroom. Yet, we don’t know if this is just when she is alone with them and/or at night. There is also a weird moment of possible character regression when Willow figures out what the Divinyls song that Buffy mentions is actually about. Previously, Willow discusses orgies casually in Season 2, Episode 5, “Reptile Boy.”
Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) has a conversation with Jenny Calender (Robia Scott as Robia La Morte) which suggests that he only owns the one style of outfit. This suggests the character is way stodgier than his darker teenage self. I personally think this is a bit of a regression after the revelation of his rebellious past in Season 2, Episode 6, “Halloween.” There is also a development with him greatly trusting Jenny by allowing her to surprise him (with monster trucks). We also see that he is trusting of Angel due to suggesting Buffy she go see Angel on her night off.
Angel somewhat gaslights Buffy in this episode by watering down his explanation of Drusilla’s (Juliet Landau) creation. His admitting details about his past is a development, however. We still don’t know a lot of his history at this point; arguably, the most we know about him at this point is his vampiric lineage and the curse existing to make him feel guilt. Speaking of his guilty feelings and his lineage, we see he still has feelings for Drusilla and Spike (James Marsters). Whether this is strictly out of guilt or not is a question that, if I remember right, does not see resolution.
Spike displays a lot of impatience with Billy “Ford” Fordham’s (Jason Behr) theatrics. This shows a consistent character quality from when he first appears in Season 2, Episode 3, “School Hard.” We also see character development with how he is jealous of Angel interacting with Drusilla. His own interactions with her also show that he can love, but that he has certain limits, such as when he does not play along with her encouraging her dead bird. There is also a moment of irregularity with him handing over his car keys to a minion. Yes, he abuses this car, but the fact that we see it in so many episodes suggests he is deeply fond of it.
Drusilla apparently has bad luck as a character trait. First with James/”the little boy” (Will Rothhaar) finding her less scary than Angel, and later with how she ends up Buffy’s hostage in the club. We also see more of her madness during that encounter with James. We also learn of a bit about her human family — assuming, of course, that she is remembering right and it isn’t her madness making her relate untruths. We also get actual evidence of her being prophetic by getting Spike to back down before he tears Ford’s head off.
Ford is odd in terms of his characterization. It seems like his motivation is just an obsession with becoming the undead. Yet, once we learn he is dying from some form of cancer, he becomes both more and less cliched. More in that he becomes just a villain using others to prolong his own life. Less in that we are unsure if he is telling the truth about the cancer. He tells so many lies before admitting to his condition. Add to that his love of theatrics and lack of symptoms and you get a lot of ambiguity for the character.
Jenny Calender, James, Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter), Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon), Chantrelle (Julia Lee), and Marvin/Diego (Jarrad Paul) are all extraneous characters in this episode. They all mainly serve to fill out the runtime. Yes, there is character development with Jenny in the form of her interest in monster truck shows and Chantrelle provides some context to what type of people are in the club, but even that is arguably pointless.
This episode has a few moments of character progression and/or development. While this is mostly a good thing, I do think some moments go too far, such as when Buffy confronts Angel about Drusilla. That scene suggests the pair are further into their relationship than they are. Also, they act more mature about their relationship here than they will ever again. That said, these types of moments are better than the (arguably) pointless moments we see throughout this episode.