Characterization In The Buffyverse — ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Season 3, Episode 3

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.

Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) officially returns to school. But a new demon hunter’s arrival in town disrupts her return to her previous status quo.

(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)

(Content Warning For Possible Forced Sex Work)

Buffy displays some trauma upon seeing the ring Scott Hope (Fab Filippo) tries to give her — not to mention her dreams continue to be a mix of guilt, trauma, and prophesying the return of Angel (David Boreanaz). The fact that she will never get proper therapy is rather sad. On the plus side, we see she is able to notice how Faith (Eliza Dushku) is faking it till she makes it. Although, her failure to help Faith more after seeing her living situation is rather unheroic. Lastly, we get the episode-specific character trait of Buffy apparently being able to prepare at least one type of food.

Faith displays a cool, confident exterior as a cover. She’s also definitely street smart. However, the fact that she is a teenager who has no source of income means she may be selling herself for cash. That or just stealing from enough people. Whichever is the case is something that I and other viewers can only guess at. We learn in this episode that her mother is dead via a taunt that she makes. While we won’t learn much more about her parents until later, what we glean in this episode is tragic and dark.

Angel is (with the exception of the cliffhanger ending) just a figment of Buffy’s dream. Thus, his characterization is non-existent.

Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) uses a bad way of getting Buffy to admit the obvious about her reasons for leaving Sunnydale (Season 2, Episode 22, “Becoming Part 2”). Yes, it seemingly helps her deal with sending Angel to a hell dimension, but lying about a spell is a rather terrible way to go about it. Also, he becomes Faith’s Watcher, but his failure to improve her quality of life shows him to be a poor authority figure. For instance, he should at least provide funding for a better residence.

Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan), Oz (Seth Green), and Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) have no real character growth. In fact, Willow and Xander see a reduction to their respective characterizations for this episode. Willow mostly gives exposition and has characters talk at her. Xander seems to exist just to leer and be creepy toward Faith. Oz mainly reacts, and gives a small amount of exposition. He also displays actual concern when it comes to Faith’s answer about slaying werewolves. Though whether this is due to the crass part of her answer or just her catchphrase is up for debate. Their lackluster appearances in this episode are even more of a waste than the majority of Angel’s.

Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) is essentially just a jealous girlfriend in this episode. She also displays toxic behavior when slut-shaming Faith’s actions on the dance floor — although this is odd considering Faith is doing nothing inappropriate when dancing in this episode. Cordelia justifiably calls out Xander on his fixation with Slayers, but again, this is due to her jealousy over Xander’s ogling Faith. Sadly, there isn’t anything in terms of positive character growth for Cordelia in this episode.

Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland) displays herself as the Scoobies’ maternal figure. Unfortunately, other than insulting Principal Snyder (Armin Shimerman) and her showing concern for both Slayers, there are no developments to her character.

Principal Snyder, meanwhile, is an extraneous character in this episode. His one scene here feels unnecessary as a simple line of dialogue would cover the same ground.

Mr. Trick (K. Todd Freeman) seems very computer savvy. But he also comes off as one song away from being a racist stereotype with his near-constant grinning, accent, and constant references to the southern United States. That said, his character is smart enough to run from the dumb vendetta fight Kakistos (Jeremy Roberts) starts. So I give him points for that.

Kakistos and Scott Hope are arguably both one-dimensional characters. In Kakistos’s case, though, he at least has the potential to become a major threat. Unfortunately, due to his insistence on doggedly pursuing Faith, as well as his overconfidence, we see a quick end to this rather interesting looking vampire. As for Scott, we get hints that he may become a boyfriend for Buffy. However, he lacks any real personality or quirks other than his use of terms that are behind the times.

This episode continues the frustrating trend of poorly using the assemblage of characters. On the plus side, it does have more developments and characterization then the last several episodes.

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