Characterization In The Buffyverse — ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Season 2, Episode 12

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.

A class teaches a lesson on parenting using eggs as figurative babies — but the eggs aren’t the typical chicken variety most classes use.

(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)

Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is unusually absent for no good reason from one of her classes. This, plus Buffy forgetting an errand, mean that her mom Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland) is, to an extent, right about Buffy being irresponsible at times. Yet, we do see some character progression in the form of her being able to sense vampires. It is an ability Giles mentions during one of her first times at the Bronze (Season 1, Episode 1, ‘Welcome to the Hellmouth’), but it finally manifests in this episode when she senses Lyle Gorch (Jeremy Ratchford) at the mall. And though a useful addition to her powers, the first graveyard scene in this episode shows that it can face obstruction and is not pinpoint accurate.

Joyce comes off as more complex in this episode. She is stern and responsible, but is also caring and humorous. Granted, none of these occur at the same time. Not to mention that Buffy could resolve some of Joyce’s stern feelings by simply providing proof, and an explanation, of demons existing. That said, the fact she thinks Buffy is joking about vampires while at the food court is odd since she believes her daughter’s behavior in Los Angeles stemmed from delusions about vampires (Season 2, Episode 22, ‘Becoming Part 2’).

Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) and Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) appear partly in this episode as themselves and partly as puppets of the episode’s demon. While they are themselves they get little to do, so there is not any real character progression. We mainly just get Willow pushing Buffy’s romance and Giles showing confusion about a sentence. When both are acting as puppets, Willow is the mouthpiece/leader of the demon’s brood. Giles, on the other hand, is only a generic minion. There is also the oddity the main demon can make Willow and Giles act normally, but fails to eliminate Buffy when it has the chance. Thus, the possession feels uneven in characterization.

Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) shows the ability to be sneaky in this episode. But that is mainly due to the weird possession the other people are under — they simply don’t notice him. While his method of cheating is clever, one would think that any good teacher would still notice it. Xander also displays some level of character progression with how he doesn’t immediately knock Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) out. Then again, his threat to murder her after her body hits him kind of negates this progression.

Cordelia has some progress in her relationship with Buffy and the Scoobies. For once, she does not complain. She also seems genuinely curious about the egg situation, evidence that she is maturing as a character. Also, in the aftermath of the possession, we see her admit to wanting inclusion in things. As for her relationship with Xander, she expresses both shame and a devil-may-care attitude about it. At one point, she talks about keeping it secret, but then is rather obvious in class and when she gets him from the library.

Tector Gorch (James Parks) and Lyle Gorch, Angel/Angelus (David Boreanaz), Jonathan Levinson (Danny Strong), and Mr. Whitmore (Rick Zieff) are pretty much stock characters in this episode. The Gorch brothers are villainous red herrings meant to distract viewers from the real threat. Angel gets some kind of prior association with the Gorch Brothers, but is no more than a love interest and sight gag character in this episode. Finally, Jonathan and Mr. Whitmore are just characters who help move the plot along.

In conclusion, this episode is rather weak on characterization. Nevertheless we do get some good character moments.

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