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.
Angelus (David Boreanaz) starts to enact a world-ending scheme. Meanwhile, Buffy Summers’s (Sarah Michelle Gellar) fellow slayer, Kendra (Bianca Lawson), returns to help in the fight against Angelus.
(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)
(Trigger warning for mentions of stalking and abuse)
Buffy Summers, Kendra, and — to an extent — Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) are the heroes of this episode even if none of them save the day. They also don’t get to act as protagonists. Rather, we see them act in regards to the manipulations of Angelus (and in Kendra’s case, Drusilla). Not to mention that none of them get any character development! Arguably, the closest that any of them get is Xander’s non-apology after accidentally insulting Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter). Yet, this is just further proof that he is abusive to people in his life.
Angelus has characterization that is a little all-over-the-place. There is only a glimpse of his human self engaging in depravities. Thus, the romantic aspect of the character remains in tact. The version of him post-curse initially has it, but it quickly goes away if one considers the following: he stalks Buffy while having the soul that makes him feel guilt. His relationship with Buffy mirrors his relationship with Drusilla (Juliet Landau) in that he gaslights and stalks them.
During the present day scenes, Angelus starts off (via his dialogue) as if he has a plan in place. Yet, much like his human and pre-Sunnydale periods, there is no plan. When he finally devises one, it is because of Drusilla and Spike informing him of Acathla. This in turn makes it weird when he explains about Acathla history to Spike. One would think that Spike or Drusilla would know more about demonic legends than Angelus — particularly due to their prior search for a cure for Drusilla. There is also Angelus’s apparent lack of knowledge about other demons prior to meeting Whistler (Max Perlich).
Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head), Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan), and Drusilla are essentially just plot devices in this episode. Yes, the women get some character development with Willow’s magic and Drusilla’s past. Yet, they are blink-and-miss-it moments. As for Giles, both he and Drusilla introduce us to the season ending threat of Acathla, but they lack any real purpose beyond that. Although, it is fair to say that Giles choosing to go along with the initial attempt to re-soul Angelus is odd. Particularly since a lot of the points Xander makes during the group’s argument are points Giles should be making.
Cordelia and Spike (James Marsters) are essentially extras in this episode. They really only exist as extensions of their love interests and to give a few amusing bits of dialogue.
Principal Snyder (Armin Shimerman), Merrick (Richard Riehle), Oz (Seth Green), Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland), Darla (Julie Benz), and Whistler are not relevant. Yes, some of them have characterization, or slight relevance to the over-arching plot, but they all lack real relevance to this episode’s plot.
Overall, this episode has too much exposition and not enough proper characterization. Angelus, for his part, gets an unequal amount of what character development exists here.