Characterization In The Buffyverse — ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Season 3, Episode 12

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) eighteenth birthday has arrived. However, instead of cake and entertainment, she will get betrayal and terror.

(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)

(Trigger warning for mentions of sexual assault, stalking, gaslighting, and grooming!)

Angel (David Boreanaz) offering a very creepy confession about stalking Buffy while having his soul curse is a clumsy bit of character development. It is debatable, though, whether the figurative part of his speech is grooming and/or gaslighting. Whatever the case, this confession about falling in love with a complete stranger and his choice of gift are all relationship red flags. The speech and confession suggest he is emotionally and mentally unstable even with the soul curse. While the gift suggests he does not know Buffy and may not truly love her — but knows and loves his idea of her. In terms of character development, there is nothing truly positive for him in this episode.

Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) essentially becomes an idiot and a stereotypical horror protagonist thanks to the episode’s plot. The former aspect is most apparent by how she ignores the relationship red flags arising from Angel’s word and actions. The confession should arguably be triggering some level of trauma from events in the latter half of Season 2. Instead, she acts like it is all figurative and romantic. The plot also leaves her looking like an idiot when she fails to notice Rupert Giles’s (Anthony Stewart Head) lack of desire to research. Although it is nice that she sees him as a surrogate dad. Lastly, she is a generic horror protagonist when facing Zachary Kralik (Jeff Kober) due to her reactions.

Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland), for the most part, is a hostage in this episode. Yes, we see her try to be a parent to Buffy, but like Joyce’s time as a hostage, there is only surface level characterization.

Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) silently admits to Buffy that he has parental feelings for her while Quentin Travers (Harris Yulin) fires him. However, his betrayal of Buffy — figuratively raping her of her powers via a literal phallic object — shows that he is failing to learn. Despite his extensive experiences with Buffy and her friends, he still acts like stranger and relies on his training as a Watcher more than his instincts to the detriment of his relationships with others. Unfortunately, we will see this come about repeatedly in the latter seasons.

Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon), Oz (Seth Green), and Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) have no actual character development in this episode. The only arguable character developments involve the talk of Willow failing to reverse a curse and Xander trying to lift open a twist-off lid.

Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) has a minimal amount of character development in this episode. Her actions in this episode only consist of helping Buffy, but one can consider this as Cordelia somewhat healing from Xander’s betrayal.

Quentin Travers comes off as a pompous and rather unemotional individual. Although he seems intelligent, he apparently does not understand how he is in the wrong about the “test.” Specifically, he does understand how the vampire getting loose and out of the testing ground invalidates the whole exercise. Also, he acts like the “test” proves anything more than luck and fails to consider how de-powering a Slayer could put the world in danger. Case in point: the many prophecies the Scoobies come across, especially the one that releases the Master (Season 1, Episode 12, ‘Prophecy Girl’). Finally, his remarks and attitude toward Buffy suggest he is definitely sexist and, possibly, a sociopath.

Blair (Dominic Keating) and Hobson (David Haydn-Jones) are just cannon fodder characters. Yes, they also act as the guards/caretakers of Zachary Kralik, but they only get surface level characterization.

Zachary Kralik is a rather stereotypical horror villain, complete with cliches like childhood trauma and a level of pain immunity. Other than his hate for women — especially mothers — there is not much to say about his characterization.

This episode has mostly negative moments of characterization. Unfortunately, what character development exists in this episode is sparse and comes from these regressive moments.

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