Characterization In The Buffyverse — ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Season 2, Episode 8

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.

The past history of Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) comes back to haunt him. Can the slayer and her friends save him?

(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)

Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) continues to be an inconsistent character. On the one hand, we see her progressing as a fighter at the hospital parking lot. But she also regresses, as seen when her reflexes don’t kick in before Ethan Rayne (Robin Sachs) knocks her out. Also, it is odd that she can’t escape ropes when she has supernatural strength. However, we do see her acting like she views Giles as a father when she first confronts him at his home. So there is more progression than regression to her characterization in this episode.

Giles acts like a fool in this episode due to his drinking. Yes, his self-medicating comes from the guilt of his past misdeeds and failures. Nevertheless, he should be smarter about the warning sign his nightmares represent. Not to mention that if he feels so much guilt, why doesn’t he ensure, prior to meeting Buffy, that Eyghon is no more. At the same time, this episode does progress his character by suggesting he is afraid of himself. Also, Giles now has a history, and this adds dimensions to his character.

Jenny Calender (Robia Scott as Robia La Morte) gets some character progression in this episode. First, there is the fact we get to see her as a no-nonsense type teacher when reprimanding Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) and Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) at the lockers. We have not had a glimpse at this side of her before. Also, we get to see her teasing Giles when they talk about a book on loan. Thus, we see her sense of humor on display. Unfortunately, her relationship with Giles goes from being a loving one to seeming that of an abuse survivor talking to her abuser.

Angel (David Boreanaz) is more plot device in this episode than a character. Yes, we get some romantic tension between him and Buffy once they save the blood supply. Yet, that and his saving Jenny from full possession by Eyghon are the only moments he has in the episode. Thus, we don’t really get any character progression for him, though there is some arguable confusion regarding his and other vampire character status as undead being due to Eyghon jumping into him. “How dead are the undead?” is now a relevant question. Fortunately — or unfortunately depending on your perspective — this question will never get an answer.

Xander shows some perceptiveness despite mostly missing the obvious. This occurs when he points out the moment of unconsciousness Jenny has in the library; albeit after the fact. Other than that, there really isn’t any other type of character progression for him. Although, as far as this particular character trait goes, I would argue that this episode is the third where it occurs. The first time being Season 1, Episode 12, ‘Prophecy Girl,’ when he gets Angel to help him assist Buffy. The second occurrence happens in Season 2, Episode 5, ‘Reptile Boy,’ with Xander noticing Cordelia Chase’s (Charisma Carpenter) car.

Willow is not much of a character in this episode. What characterization she has is mainly in acting as a substitute for both Giles and Buffy. She does this by acting as an adult (Giles) and leader (Buffy) when breaking up Xander and Cordelia’s fight. Yes, she helps the group solve the latest crisis via researching in other languages, but I would argue she comes across as too unrealistic in how she exclaims doing so. Other than these moments, there isn’t any major progression (or regression) of her character.

Cordelia is arguably somewhat of a character in this episode due to the lack of screen time and focus she gets here. Another reason: she mainly serves as an obstacle for other characters. Obviously, Giles has to get her out of his way to deal with the questions from the police. But she also has to be overcome by Willow and Xander when she tries their patience. Besides these instances, we get a little bit of her caring for Giles when she asks Buffy how to assist. Both this assistance, and the argument with Xander (in which we learn the length of their history), add to her character.

Ethan is both clever and somewhat stupid in this episode. He is clever in trying to destroy the mark of Eyghon he wears. Also, he is smart in trying to seek help from Giles. However, he stupidity prevails when he attempts to use Buffy as a substitute for himself. Not to mention, that like Giles, he should know about Eyghon being able to jump bodies. Combine his knowledge, his seeking help, and him being safer with the Slayer and her group, and you have a rather foolish coward. In other words, his escaping the library after the first fight seems less character-driven and more a way to extend the episode. It is a choice made purely for the plot’s sake.

Eyghon does not have much characterization beyond scary flashback images and his possessing others. We mainly get information from characters talking about him. What we do see is that, apparently, Eyghon is relatively weaker (at least in this episode) than a vampire, or at least Angel. Also that Eyghon likes to growl and scowl when possessing the dead. There is also the matter of him seemingly lacking a good strategy for taking out his former summoners. Specifically, the former co-leaders of the group (Giles and Ethan) are presumably the biggest threats due to their knowledge and magical skill. Yet, instead of possessing one of them in their sleep he sends haunting nightmares.

In conclusion, this episode presents a few interesting possibilities. Mainly the exploration of the characters’ pasts, but sadly, we don’t get more of Giles’s past. Also, there is a glimpse of a better seasonal villain in the form of Eyghon. Willow becoming a second in command to Buffy is also on display. Though that, and the exploration of characters’ pasts, are less possibilities and more eventualities.

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