Characterization In The Buffyverse — ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Season 3, Episode 13

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.

Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendan) goes on a trip around Sunnydale with some zombies. Meanwhile, an apocalypse is brewing.

(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)

Xander displays both confidence and insecurity in ways that seem out of proportion. An example of the former is when he bluffs Jack O’Toole (Channon Roe) into disarming a bomb. From an outside perspective, his confidence seems to come out of nowhere. In the case of the latter, his insecurity spurs him to continue his misadventure with O’Toole. This is despite the fact that each friend he encounters could provide an out for him. Yet, like his other interactions in this episode, he talks at others while they talk at him. Thus: no real communication occurs.

Angel (David Boreanaz), Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head), Oz (Seth Green), Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan), and Faith Lehane (Eliza Dushku) all play off Xander in this episode. Unfortunately, none of them get a significant amount of character growth so there is nothing worth mentioning.

Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) acts as a mix between a plot device and an antagonist. That is to say her actions as an antagonistic ex-girlfriend essentially serve to start, move along, and end the plot of this episode.

Willy The Snitch (Saverio Guerra) has a scene that suggests he is developing a positive relationship with Buffy. Yet, the development is occurring off-screen between episodes — and this makes it feel like a cheat.

Jack O’Toole, Parker (Darrin Heames), Dickie (Scott Torrence), and Bob (Michael Cudlitz) are episodic antagonists. The latter three are also cannon fodder and plot devices. They serve no real purpose except to figuratively level up Xander’s confidence. Thereafter, he can take their leader (Jack) with a bluff.  As for being plot devices, all four serve to essentially make Xander the unsung hero of the night.

The Cop (Vaughn Armstrong) is a very clear plot device. He first comes across as a figurative “out” for Xander with the menacing Jack, but quickly turns into Xander’s “in” with Jack.

Lysette (Whitney Dylan) is also a plot device in that she serves to get Xander away from the apocalyptic adventure the others are having. She is also, apparently, a gear head who overly loves car rides.

The Sisterhood of Jhe is just a generic group of brutal demons. They have no other characterization beyond that basic description.

Obviously this episode shines a spotlight on Xander. Yet, it occurs in a way that makes him have too much focus, thereby leaving the other characters with no time or ability to have agency.

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