Thursday, July 1, 2010

#22: Darla

Of all the characters on the two series, I would suggest that no single one has a story as convoluted as Darla's. Living in the Virginia colony in the early 17th century, she contract syphilis and dies at the hands of the Master, who sires her. Several hundred years as a vampire, during which she sires Angel, and in the first season of Buffy, she's in Sunnydale, before being dusted by Angel himself. She's then brought back to life as a human by Wolfram & Hart, and then killed and sired again by Drusilla before finally taking her own (un)life in order to let her unborn son Connor live.

Whew. Complicated or what? Four deaths, and the last one seems to have stuck... more or less. That gives Darla, played by Julie Benz, the distinction of most deaths on the Buffyverse. Another significant distinction would be that she is the very first character to speak any dialogue on the series, in the Joss Whedon-penned first episode “Welcome to the Hellmouth” - in a wonderful scene that immediately subverts Hollywood cliché and sets the tone for the twelve seasons to come (she's also the first to speak in the unaired pilot, in essentially the same scene). However, Darla is not really a 'Buffy character' at all. In fact, her total word count on Buffy alone is enough to put her merely at 47th place among Buffy characters, below Buffy's university roommate Kathy. She appears in only five episodes, only once (Season One's “Angel”, when she's dusted for the first time) ranking in the top five: #2 with 606 words. Of these five appearances, three are contemporaneous, as an overly enthusiastic disciple of the Master in Sunnydale in season one (where, surprisingly, she still says enough to rank as the tenth most prominent character on that truncated season). The other two are in flashbacks in episodes on seasons two and five, where we see the more sophisticated Darla we've come to know.

Come to know where? On Angel, where Darla's status as Angel's 'sire' and constant companion in the evil old days give her a more important role. Season One ends with Darla brought back to life by Wolfram & Hart – though her panting in that episode doesn't count as a spoken appearance. We'd already seen her in two flashbacks that season, though, and she becomes a much more important character in Season Two, appearing in ten episodes and finishing as the number-six character for the season. Interestingly, in this season Darla's role is eother minor or major. She's off the top five for six of the ten episodes, but the remaining four episodes each have her at either number one or number two in the word count. In “Dear Boy” and “The Trial”, Darla finishes as the number-two character with 828 and 865 words respectively, and she ranks #1 in “Redefinition”, in which Angel doesn't say a single word on camera, with 728 words, and in her eponymous episode “Darla”, where her 1223 words are over 30% of the dialogue. Like so many of Darla's appearances, this is a flashback-heavy episode.

Returning in season three pregnant with Angel's baby, Darla makes a further five appearances and comes in tenth for character word counts that season. Her fifth appearance is her last one, in a manner of speaking, the episode “Lullaby”, where she clocks in a number-three, 511-word appearance before dusting herself so that Connor may live.

A season and a half later, we see an apparition that may or may not be Darla in the rather messy episode “Inside Out”. Who- or whatever that character is, it says 438 words and finishes fourth. Having no other place to put them, I've given those words to Darla, though that might not be appropriate. A final appearance is a season later, in flashbacks only, in “The Girl in Question”.

As I've done with Drusilla, I'll take Darla's total word-count and itemise it by time and place. In this case, it'll also have to include by 'nature' (human, vampire, other). Are you ready? It's long...
  • Virginia, 1609, as a human: 97 words
  • Galway, 1753, as a vampire: 198 words
  • London, 1760, as a vampire: 70 words
  • York, 1764, as a vampire: 45 words
  • France, 1765, as a vampire: 171 words
  • Marseilles, 1767, as a vampire: 75 words
  • Rome, 1771, as a vampire: 52 words
  • London, 1860, as a vampire: 113 words
  • London, 1880, as a vampire: 54 words
  • Yorkshire, 1880, as a vampire: 30 words
  • Italy, 1894, as a vampire: 110 words
  • Borsa, Romania, 1898, as a vampire: 244 words
  • China, 1900, as a vampire: 280 words
  • Sunnydale, 1997, as a vampire: 763 words
  • Los Angeles, 2000, as a human: 2120 words
  • The location of 'the trial', 2000, as a human: 49 words
  • Los Angeles, 2000, in Angel's dreams, 194 words
  • Los Angeles, 2000-2001, as a vampire: 1361 words
  • Puerto Cabazas, Nicaragua, 2001, as a pregnant vampire: 21 words
  • Yoro Mountains, Honduras, 2001, as a pregnant vampire: 97 words
  • Los Angeles, 2001, as a pregnant vampire: 1100 words
  • Los Angeles, 2003, as an apparition: 438 words

Now that's an epic tale.
  • Overall ranking: #22
  • Ranking on Buffy: #47
  • Ranking on Angel: #11
  • Total words spoken on Buffy: 834
    • Season 1: 763 (#10)
    • Season 2: 35
    • Season 5: 36
  • Total words spoken on Angel: 6848
    • Season 1: 301
    • Season 2: 4609 (#6)
    • Season 3: 1390 (#10)
    • Season 4: 438
    • Season 5: 110
  • Total words spoken in the Buffyverse: 7682
  • Total speaking appearances on Buffy: 5
    • Ranking #2: 1
    • Minor: 4
  • Total speaking appearances on Angel: 19
    • Ranking #1: 2
    • Ranking #2: 2
    • Ranking #3: 1
    • Ranking #4: 1
    • Ranking #5: 2
    • Minor: 11
  • Total speaking appearances in the Buffyverse: 24
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