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.
This week: the holiday of Christmas approaches. However, not all is festive for the Slayer and her friends.
(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)
(Trigger warnings for mentions of suicide and torture!)
Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Angel (David Boreanaz) are like the rest of this episode’s characters — they are stuck in a grouping of similar characterization. Or, at least, the same amount of characterization. While they both act as leads, this episode is more about their toxic relationship and the mystery of Angel’s return than any actual characterization. Thus, we get little progression for them. Although, we do learn that Buffy has more self-control than any version of Angel due to their final argument in this episode. Also, Angel is not as smart as he would like people to think as his reaction to the fake hauntings is to believe them and attempt suicide. Nevertheless, Angel is definitely not completely suicidal since he could more easily just drink a bottle of holy water.
Out of all the supporting cast, Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) and Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) have the most characterization in this episode. In Giles’s case, we see how the aftermath of Angel torturing him still affects him. With Xander, we see more of what his past and current home life is like via his camping outside. Unfortunately, we also see Giles acting illogically by giving Angel an invite to his home. Not to mention, Giles lowering his crossbow seems as weird as Xander’s sudden offer to help research. They also both still display hate and anger toward Angel and a greater affection for Buffy.
Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan), Oz (Seth Green), Faith Lehane (Eliza Dushku), and Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland) all receive surface level characterization this week. At the same time, they also get some minor character progression. Willow regains some of Oz’s trust through communication — granted, there is that fumble as Willow is clearly not ready to attempt seduction. Faith, meanwhile, reconnects with Buffy even as it revealed her reluctance to open up and be friends. Although, we have to admit the scene at the inn and the moment at the front door of the Summers house comes across as queer-baiting. Finally, Joyce nixing Buffy’s idea of inviting Giles to spend the holidays feels like a definite end to that potential romance.
Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter), Willy The Snitch (Saverio Guerra), Weatherman (Mark Kriski), and Tree Seller Guy (Tom Bailey as Tom Michael Bailey) have stock characterization at best. Willy’s personality seems to be less sleazy than in his last appearance (Season 2, Episode 10, ‘What’s My Line? Part 2’). Also, he and Buffy seem to be relatively peaceful with each other despite him selling her out to Spike. Unfortunately, Cordelia’s character seems to regress a lot in this episode. Yet, one can argue that her lack of scenes means we can only presume that she is regressing.
The First Evil takes the form of four characters: Male Ghost (Edward Edwards), Jenny Calender (Robia Scott as Robia Lamorte), Margaret (Cornelia Hayes O’Herlihy), and Daniel (Shane Barach). The male ghost being someone who viewers see for the first (and only) time via The First has stock characterization, while Margaret and Daniel appearing in the flashbacks allow them to have surface level characterization. All four characters’ appearances only really serve to try and make The First a major villain. Unfortunately, the lack of follow-through in this season with this character makes it seem no more than a bag of wind.
This episode is less about the characters and more about the plot, the music, and the montages. Thus, characterization is at an extremely low point for this show.