Characterization In The Buffyverse — ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Season 3, Episode 7
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) faces the exposure of her secret romance. Meanwhile, Mrs. Gwendolyn Post (Serena Scott Thomas), another Watcher, is apparently in town for Faith (Eliza Dushku).
(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)
(Trigger warning for mentions of substance abuse and abusive relationships!)
Buffy acts as though she is in a love triangle with Angel (David Boreanaz) and Faith. A particular scene displaying this queer-baiting love triangle is at the end when she attempts to clear things up with Faith. Buffy’s demeanor resembles that of a fictional 1950s housewife who is leaving her female lover for an abusive husband. Also, her return to a romance with Angel is treated as an allegory for drug use. In the intervention scene, for instance, she makes some reasonable points, but still comes across like an addict in denial.
Angel, meanwhile, is depicted as being “healthy” enough to be on his own. So his return still being secret no longer makes sense. Yes, he has trouble fighting Faith, but this seems more out of a reluctance to hurt her. That, and his history overall, suggests he is more of a manipulator than a fighter. Speaking of manipulation, Buffy and Angel falling into old patterns seems somewhat like he is grooming her. The show supports this reading via his rather obvious attempt to seduce her during their exercise session.
Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) mainly gets to be a foil for the jokes Gwendolyn Post makes at his expense. The only other thing that really occurs with him in this episode is his rage at Buffy. One can view it as that of someone who is dealing with a betrayal. Yet, I personally think there is a bit of a parental disapproval fueling his anger. Either way, his rage sees release in a mostly justifiable way.
Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) and Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) display a ton of guilt in this episode regarding their affair. Though some of their actions seem conscious, others seem to be allegorical. One can see this mostly when a simple attempt to help the other results in a make-out session. While this is mostly a plot device that will cause tension in the group, it does lead to development for Willow — she projects Buffy’s secret relationship onto her own affair. This will see more exploration in later seasons as her magic and arrogance develops.
Although Xander receives no development, he does get the weird talking point of Jenny Calender’s (Robia Scott as Robia LaMorte) death. This occurs during the invention and is something that would be more logical for Giles to bring up.
Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) and Oz (Seth Green) seem to be a little suspicious of Willow and Xander. Yet, both remain in the dark about the affair. As far as character development goes, we see Oz finally reach his full monosyllabic stoic personality in this episode. Unfortunately, Cordelia lacks for any apparent development in this episode. That said, both Cordelia and Oz also get to be the most reasonable and logical at Buffy’s intervention.
Lagos (Gary Kasper) seems to just be a brute as well as a red herring. However, the fact that Lagos wears armor and has an axe suggests something more than being a mere brute — at least in terms of fighting. Yet, we never see any signs of a fighter with experience. Instead, we get simple fighting moves along with his one-track mind.
Mrs. Gwendolyn Post is lying about both her reasons for being in Sunnydale and her current status with the Watcher’s Council. Thus, she may also be lying about being a wife. Either way, it is interesting that she and Giles seem to have a moment of potential romance before she hits him. Also interesting is how she is allowed to live freely despite her termination from the Council. One would think that her exploration of the dark arts would motivate them to keep on eye on her. Although, this freedom of movement is just a way to keep the plot moving, much like her ability to best various characters. Lastly, like the rest of the Watcher’s Council we will see in this series, she has terrible fashion.
Faith’s absence in the intervention for Buffy is reasonable since she lacks a past history with Angel. Nevertheless, the character moments that this exclusion causes are obviously the plot driving the story. And when Post tricks Faith twice, it is less Faith’s past history at play and more the needs of the episode. As for the queer-baiting occurring with Faith and Buffy, it feels like Faith takes some of Xander’s place after finding Giles; she plays the jealous love interest seeking a rival’s death when she should show more concern for Giles. Lastly, her desire to feel acceptance is on display at various parts of this episode, especially during her conversations with Buffy and Post.
When it comes to characterization this episode has a lot. Although much of it is allegorical, there are still some great character moments. Unfortunately, certain key scenes (and the accompanying dialogue) occur with the wrong characters. Also, this episode features the start of a queer-baiting relationship that will change with future seasons to a sisterly rivalry. Finally, this episode begins the shift of subverting standard horror characters into something more allegorical.