Characterization In The Buffyverse — ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Season 3, Episode 4

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) confronts her past in multiple ways. Meanwhile, a brutal and bizarre murderer is going after the residents of Sunnydale.

(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)

(Trigger warning for mentions of abuse and drug use)

Buffy has moments where she seems to be going through the motions of her daily life, but she also appears to zone out in this episode. Although, this really only happens when obviously deep in thought about the return of Angel (David Boreanaz). As for her fighting ability, she fails to use them to effectively take out Pete Clarner (John Patrick White). Thus, one can easily argue that she regresses to pre-series Buffy in that regard. Last, but not least, we see how deeply Angel’s actions as Angelus hurt her emotionally, and how her situation mirrors Debbie Foley’s (Danielle Weeks).

Angel is an inconsistent character in this episode. He is mostly feral due to his return from a hell dimension. But after returning in the last episode (Season 3, Episode 3, “Faith, Hope & Trick”) completely nude, he is at least cognizant enough to feel the need for pants. That recognition of social mores is not enough to stop him attacking people, though. As for him breaking down after killing Pete, all I can guess is that the curse gave him a burst of guilt. This feeling of guilt in turn allows him some ability to think rationally and recognize Buffy.

Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) and Willow (Alyson Hannigan) do not get any real type of character development in this episode. They are mostly just here for the sake of servicing the plot and some comedic effect.

Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) mostly sees a regression to being a font of exposition. Although, we do see some tension between him and Buffy concerning the aftermath of Angelus. He seems to suspect her of lying about Angel’s return. Yet, the episode’s plot interrupts this moment between the characters. There is also a moment where he slightly unleashes his darker persona — “Ripper” — on Xander at the beginning of the episode. Thus, Giles displays a weariness to dealing with him and uncertainty about his trust in Buffy, respectively.

Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) gets absolutely no character growth. She also sees a regression in intelligence by believing the false rumor about “estrogen” medication.

Oz (Seth Green) has a new look to his werewolf self that differs greatly from his original (Season 2, Episode 15, “Phases”). Though the only change this causes in the show is that his werewolf form can emote in a more recognizable way. As far as his personality goes, we see him showing concern for Debbie in a way that is not pushy; he offers to talk, but does not insist. Also, his aloof way of communicating is more solid in this episode versus any time prior. Unfortunately, this all represents an incremental growth.

Scott Hope (Fab Filippo) still has no personality. What characterization he gets seems episodic and thus pointless to note.

Pete and Debbie are (arguably) one-dimensional characters, mostly due to how they play out a version of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886). Although, the fact that Pete is obviously not a nice person (which is clear from his dialogue) limits his and Debbie’s characters. Throw in the fact that there are no other suspects besides Oz and Angel and one is left with a rather simple story of abuse. His use of a serum adds the addition that he is intelligent, though, and he possibly has a sense of superiority. As for Debbie, her attempt to protect Pete so fervently after finding out about the murders makes her seem a little past the point of help.

Mr. Platt (Phill Lewis) is a character that only appears in this episode. And though I personally feel that his death is wasteful, it does somewhat explain why Buffy does not attempt to seek psychological help in the future.

Faith (Eliza Dushku) arguably gets no real character growth. Yes, she gets the rather obvious trait of liking heavy metal music. However, that is not real character development since we never see her mention or enjoy metal again. We also see hints of why she has trust issues when she equates men to no more than animals. Thus, we get further evidence of her having a bad past, but like Oz, it is at best incremental growth.

This episode brings back actual characterization to a healthy enough extent. Yet, there is frustratingly little in the way of developments that will remain past this episode.

%d bloggers like this: