Characterization In The Buffyverse — ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Season 4, Episode 2
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: Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) faces problems both demonic and domestic. She is also having disturbing nightmares.
(Warning of spoilers from this point on!)
Buffy does not grow as a character in this episode and the majority of what occurs in it never sees further exploration. Although, with the magical history-altering existence of Dawn Summers (Michelle Trachtenberg) starting next season, this episode’s events may not actually occur at all (Season 5, Episode 1, ‘Buffy vs. Dracula’). Yet, one can see how Buffy as an only child versus Buffy as a sibling will at times play out due to the events of this episode. She also seems illogical in some of her actions due to how we really only see her do certain annoying and/or disturbing things. For example: she collects regenerating demonic toe nails, but we never see her gain the knowledge to consider that as evidence in the first place. Finally, with how much complaining she and Kathy Newman (Dagney Kerr) do, it is surprising neither registers a complaint with a residential advisor.
Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan), Oz (Seth Green), and Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) have surprisingly little to do in this episode. They mostly listen to Buffy complain about her problems and provide amusing dialogue or moments. As an example, when Willow is chatting on the phone with Buffy there is an absurd amount of partygoers with Willow’s roommate. Also, of the three, Xander for once has the least focus. Nevertheless, we do learn that out of the entire group, Xander is facing the grimmest living situation — renting his abusive parents’ basement and paying to eat their food. As for Oz, we learn that he does not patrol with Buffy in any regular way.
Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) gives some advice about residing with another individual. Considering Giles’s past, this may hint at a some portion of his youthful experiences, especially since, like Buffy, he is an only child. Though it is more likely that he is just applying common sense to Buffy’s cohabitation problem. His talking behind her back with Willow and Oz shows he has some real concern about her stresses. Nevertheless, this is yet another example of the poor communication skills all the characters exhibit throughout this show.
Kathy Newman again comes across as overly chipper and relatively annoying. Besides being a fan of the singer Céline Dion, she also seems to be a fan of the singer Cher, or at least one song by Cher. She is a snoop and a thief, perusing and taking from Buffy’s closet. Her discovery of Buffy’s weapons bag is odd, though, as she fails to make much of it. Considering Kathy is a demon, one would think she would realize Buffy is the Slayer, and in turn be afraid of Buffy. But considering Kathy is attempting to be at college in disguise, against her father Tapparich’s (Roger Morrissey) wishes, she really should be constantly on-guard. Overall, her characterization feels like a mix of various bits that Tara Maclay (Amber Benson) and Dawn will respectively exhibit.
In his first scene, Parker Abrams (Adam Kaufman) checks out Buffy’s backside in a slightly obvious way. He also steals while talking about stealing from the dining hall and taking advantage of his parents’ money. Yet, Buffy does not consider this before dating him in the next episode (Season 4, Episode 3, ‘The Harsh Light Of Day’.) Yes, he is charming while he does the stealing and talking. Nevertheless, the fact that he overtly displays these red flags should turn Buffy off, especially after her experiences with Angel/Angelus (David Boreanaz).
Veruca (Paige Moss), along with Demon #1 (Clayton Barber) and Demon #2 (Walt Borchert) are essentially one-dimensional characters. This is despite Veruca only being a cameo.
Kathy’s disapproving father Tapparich is also a demon, but we only learn so much about him — such as that his age is more than three thousand years old (which is also Kathy’s age).
This specific episode seems to have less to do with the show’s premise than any of the prior ones. Not to mention the few ideas to be expanded upon subsequently are only the barest snippets of development, like throwaway dialogue pertaining to Oz and Xander.