Characterization In The Buffyverse — ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Season 3, Episode 19
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.
This week: Mayor Richard Wilkins (Harry Groener) receives a mysterious box. At the same time, the heroes of Sunnydale try to take preemptive action against him.
(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)
The Mayor expounds on his past in relation to trying to divide Angel (David Boreanaz) and Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar). While this attack works, it also highlights how much Wilkins is willing to lose to gain power. We also see him lose his temper for the first time after losing his box. This both displays its importance and just how close he is to achieving his desire. Also we see more of his fatherly relationship with Faith (Eliza Dushku) in how he treats her positively (cookies) and negatively (threatening punishment).
Buffy’s use of a term of endearment for Angel is a new development. Also, her registering a legit complaint about locales she and Angel attend is also new. Both show her investment and view of their relationship. Though we also see her acknowledgement — and denial — of how she will age and Angel won’t. These moments occur at various points throughout the episode, but most noticeably near the end. For example, her facial reaction when the Mayor attacks her and Angel with this fact. Yet, this is all assuming slayers continue to age like humans past a certain point.
Buffy also displays a belief in winning when she decides to save her friend, Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan), from the Mayor. This is something that will disappear two seasons from now.
Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) does not get much new to his characterization. The most he gets is being more open with his fatherly affection for Buffy.
Angel displays some personality when Buffy starts complaining about new locales. Yet, that list of places to go is more in relation to slaying than dating. This suggests that he does not have a clear view of Buffy as both a slayer and a woman. While Angel’s lack of a visual reaction to the Mayor’s verbal attack suggests that Angel really does have a good poker face, both of these elements will play into future episodes of not just this show, but also Angel.
Oz (Seth Green) displays cunning with his angry outburst by destroying a presumably hard to replace magical item. This also shows the depth of his feelings for Willow in that he is willing to allow an apocalypse to happen to save her.
Faith displays forethought when it comes to positioning herself in case of trouble with the Courier (Jimmy F. Skaggs). She also displays no remorse for killing him which suggests she is either more comfortable with murder, or just able to rationalize this kill. At the same time, there is seemingly some regret about siding with Wilkins. This is evident by how she chooses to react to Willow’s speech in the office. Not to mention, that while she hates leaving behind her present from the mayor she does rescue Wesley from a creature.
Willow displays intelligence by finding and stealing some pages from the Books of Ascension. However, she is foolish by attempting to read all the volumes while in the midst of escaping as she could flee with some pages from the earliest volumes, and then take the last one with her. Nevertheless, we get to see her vindictive side when berating Faith. Though some of what Willow says about Faith is arguably out of line. Back on the plus side of things, she displays more magical aptitude in this episode. Finally, she shows loyalty and friendship to Buffy by choosing to go to the same college.
Wesley Wyndham-Pryce (Alexis Denisof) continues in the role of a gag character. While not getting to develop in a significant way, he does gets to make some good points, such as how the Mayor would use magical defenses.
Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) gets some growth in this episode. However, it is development that mainly occurs off-screen and only gets a reveal near the end of the episode.
Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) does the out-of-character action of reading a book for education. Although, the book in question very much suits his personality. Also appropriate is the fact that he wants to save Willow over destroying The Mayor’s box of evil. While the former slightly adds to his character, neither action provides major development. At least, not when it comes to his ongoing personal development.
The Courier has some intelligence by not having a key for the restraint he is wearing that is easy to find. Yet, he serves no real purpose to the narrative other than being another (apparently) human victim of Faith’s.
Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland) gets character development in this episode in the form of a sister by the name of Arlene. Other than this element, she has no other development come about from this episode.
Vamp – Lackey (Keith Brunsmann), Vamp – Guard (JR Reed as Jason Reed), Security Guard #1 (Michael Shoenfield) and Security Guard #2 (Seth Coltan) serve little to no purpose to the plot. Simply put, they are either sources of information or obstacles for Buffy and her friends to face.
Principal Snyder (Armin Shimerman) gets a reduction in character for this episode to a school administrator just trying to bust students for drug-dealing. This allows him to be an obstacle for a relatively peaceful exchange between Buffy and the Mayor. Yet, why he has two security guards and remains around the school at night is questionable. Also questionable: why Wilkins didn’t tell him to steer clear of the school that night. In spite of these questions, it is clear that Snyder does not grow from his experiences in this episode.
The Manager (Bonita Friedericy) is a plot device character. Yet, she is only a plot device in that her existence shows Cordelia has a job at a clothing store.
This episode has more focus on setting up elements for the final episodes of this season. Thus, character development gets put to the side for the most part.