Characterization In The Buffyverse — ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Season 3, Episode 22
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) is about to ascend into a demon. At the same time, Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) faces death while trying to save Angel (David Boreanaz).
(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)
Faith (Eliza Dushku) is not really in this episode. Yes, her body is, but she is comatose, and Buffy only confers with something that may or may not be her via a Slayer Dream.
Buffy, meanwhile, shows her humanity in two active ways during this season finale. The first is when she kisses Faith’s forehead; an arguable goodbye and thank you. She assumes Faith will not recover, but nonetheless offers gratitude for what she saw in the dream. Whether Faith is actually passing on information in the dream will always be open to interpretation, though Buffy’s second active moment of humanity is when, post-battle, she tells Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) that she is mentally and emotionally unable to talk — a consequence of the swift and various events in this episode, including her recovery and the last minute planning meeting.
Angel acts like he is noble for leaving Buffy, but his actions say the opposite. For example, he brings up his unwillingness to say goodbye during the preparation before a big battle. This, in turn, visibly throws Buffy for an emotional loop that could see her falter in the battle. Also, instead of following his original declaration about just going away following the battle to the letter, he makes one final appearance. Thus, he proves himself to be an emotionally manipulative liar.
Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) and Oz (Seth Green) act as a unit in the early part of this episode. This is mostly because of their romantic relationship becoming sexual as well. They show more affection in their interactions with each other. It also means that they are distractions for each other since neither tells Buffy about Angel being delirious to the point of mistaking them for her. Thus, they are somewhat guilty for Angel hospitalizing Buffy. One can also argue that they are also at fault for Faith being in the hospital due to not consulting Giles about the required amount of blood (Season 3, Episode 21, ‘Graduation Day: Part 1’).
Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) gets to help Buffy lead the student body in a way that harkens back to the Halloween costume spell (Season 2, Episode 6, ‘Halloween’). Other than that, and oddly not snapping at Angel in the hospital, Xander has no real moments of developments in this episode.
Principal Snyder (Armin Shimerman) seems to go insane before Wilkins eats him. The basis for this assumption is his ranting at Wilkins’s giant demon form, which differs from his behavior in previous situations (Season 2, Episode 3, ‘School Hard’ and Season 3, Episode 19, ‘Choices’).
Wilkins loses control his emotions at various points in this episode. Yet, the most clear points are in Faith’s home and the Sunnydale hospital. In the first location, he becomes vocally repetitive and displays obvious fear and agitation. While in the second, he seems to almost automatically seek revenge against Buffy. One can even argue that Wilkins only becomes aware of his actions in the hospital when Angel stops him. Whatever is the truth, it is certain that Wilkins loses his control due to his fatherly feelings for Faith.
Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) gets to develop a bit as a fighter by slaying a vampire on-screen. Other than this one moment, though, she is her usual, rather tactless self.
Wesley Wyndham-Pryce (Alexis Denisof) shows some of his figurative inner steel by coming back to help with the fight. Unfortunately, he regresses to being a gag character by the end of the episode. His ability to be a romantic character gets some hinting at in the conversation leading up to his kissing Cordelia. However, his obvious lack of experience — and his existence on this show as a gag character — ends any potential romance with her. Thus, a future development on Angel will be confounding because of this negation.
Giles once again shows fatherly concern and care for Buffy at the hospital and in the battle’s aftermath. The first is in relation to her hospitalization, and the second is when handing Buffy her diploma. One can debate whether Giles leaving Buffy to endure Wesley’s complaining is an additional sign of caring or just an extension of the diploma moment, though. Whatever the case, this is one of the episodes with some of the clearest examples of their surrogate father/daughter dynamic. Lastly, Giles gets to exhibit a hint of his teenage persona, Ripper, by being the one to throw the switch on the detonator (Season 2, Episode 8, ‘The Dark Ages’).
Harmony Kendall (Mercedes McNab), Percy West (Ethan Erickson), Jonathan Levinson (Danny Strong) and Larry Blaisdell (Larry Bagby), are all essentially plot device characters in this episode. Although, Larry’s prior characterization and death allows him to fulfill the horrible “bury your gays” trope (Season 2, Episode 15, ‘Phases’).
Dr. Powell (Paulo Andrés), Dr. Gold (Thomas Bellin), and the nurse (Susan Chuang) — along with the rest of the hospital staff — apparently lack knowledge about the supernatural based this on the questions Dr. Powell asks Angel.
This episode, the last of Season 3, features a lot of fast, and explosive, action. It also features a ton of memorable character moments that overlap in a way that creates a strong ensemble.