Friday, July 23, 2010

#6: Giles

'For real this time?', a frustrated Anya cries out in “Tabula Rasa”, right before the spell that gives everyone amnesia, 'a young shopkeeper's heart can only take so much.' Giles has announced his intention to leave, once again. It's not tough to understand Anya's frustration: for all of his talk about 'standing in the way', for all of his departures, Giles never goes away very far. His decreased involvement in the final seasons of Buffy give the impression that he's less central a character to the show than perhaps other characters. But in fact, Giles appears in 121 of 144 Buffy episodes: however you look at it, he has a well-earned place in the so-called 'core four'.

The fact is that Giles was absolutely essential to the show in the early episodes. To rewatch season one and season two is to see just how great a watcher's role in an immature slayer's life can be. To the extent that Buffy is also a show about growing up, leaving childhood things behind, accepting responsibility and getting by as an independant adult in an adult's world, it makes sense that gather-figure Giles would drop down the list of important characters as the show progressed. But the extent to which that's true is quite amazing. Looking at the total words spoken per character per season, Giles in season one is the second most verbose character. As the seasons progress, though, he falls steadily: from #2 to #3, then to #4 and #4 again, then #5 and then, as a special guest, #8 and #10.

But Giles in the beginning – stuttering, stuffy, over-dramatic Giles – is truly a force of nature. Introduced, like every single remaining character in our top 50, in Joss Whedon's series opener “Welcome to the Hellmouth”, Giles finishes every episode of Season One in either second or third place. His lowest word count that season is still 541 words (his highest being 1007 in “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date”). As the cast was gelling and settling in, Anthony Stewart Head, the most seasoned actor, was so significant to the season that his word-count of 8372 words is his second highest ever – even though Season One was barely half the length of the other seasons.

In the full 22-episode season two, Giles still gets only two minor counts. Otherwise it's six number-fives, five number-fours, five number-threes and four number twos. This is his highest overall word-count – 10,410 words – but already there is a much more rounded cast this season, and more of an contribution from other characters. And perhaps there's a trend we can notice here concerning Giles: a very strong supporting role, but very few lead roles. His highest word count this season, 916 words, is in “The Dark Age”, very clearly a 'Giles episode' yet still with a higher word count from Buffy than from Giles. The fact is that on Buffy, despite the importance of the character, 'Giles episodes' are rare and Giles number-ones are rarer still, with only three across seven seasons.

Thus it is in season three, where Giles's word count drops to 8183 words and still no number-ones. As a consolation, there are four number twos, including “Helpless” at 580 words (his season highest) and “Band Candy”, perhaps the most enjoyable performance we see in the series from Anthony Stewart Head returned to his thuggish adolescence across 542 words. Yet as much as this episode and “The Dark Age” called out for an exploration of Giles's 'Ripper' teenage years, we never got one.

Season three ended with the destruction of Sunnydale High School and the graduation of it most important students. Without a job and with Buffy on the other side of town, Giles spent much of this season in search of purpose. And while the numbers do in a sense bear that out, with a further drop to 7948 words, the fact remains that this is the season where Giles gets two in three of his number-one finishes. With 1231 words, his highest ever word count by far, and 25.9% of the dialogue, “A New Man” is a classic example of an episode centred around a single character. With Ethan Rayne turning Giles into a demon, it's a pretty run-of-the-mill slapstick episode, but it gives Giles a chance to hog the limelight, and to shine doing it, buried under all that make-up. It's also, oddly, the only of the three Giles number-ones that can in any way be construed as a 'Giles episode'. The other episode this season where Giles comes in number one, for example, would be rather hard to guess: it is in fact season finale “Restless”, the surrealistic 'dream episode', where Giles squeezes in a mere seven words more than Buffy (sung, no less).

Season Five starts with Buffy begging Giles to take a more active role in her life, and while it would appear that the Dawn/Glory plotline features him in a more central role than, say, the Riley/Adam plotline, Season Five shows another significant drop-off in Giles's word count – almost 1300 words, to 6665 words. Fully 14 of the season's 22 appearances are minor. He never gets higher than number two and never gets more than 696 words in the Watchers' Council episode “Checkpoint” (a number three finish). The season finale, “The Gift”, is a number-two finish and could concievably have been Giles's final episode. It was, in fact, his last episode as a series regular.

Giles appears in eight episodes in Season Six: the first episode, a stretch of five from episodes number four to eight, and the final two. This includes “Two to Go”, at six words ('I'd like to test that theory') his smallest-ever word-count. Giles's final number-one occurs in this season, again at 582 (a small amount for a number one) only a few words more than Buffy, and again in an episode few could have predicted: the abovementioned amnesia-episode “Tabula Rasa”, which ends with him leaving on an airplane. At a total of 3637 words, Season Six represents Giles's smallest overall word count.

Season Seven features a slight increase, at 3778 words, but over 13 episodes (well over half the season). In this overcrowded season, Giles only makes it onto the top five on five occasions, with two number twos in “Bring on the Night”, where he brings the first group of Potentials to Buffy's house, and “Lies My Parents Told Me”, which is by no means a 'Giles episode' yet still features Giles in a significant role as one of the three 'parents' who have been telling lies. Joss Whedon said he knew he couldn't kill off any of the 'core four' in season finale “Chosen”, so on that bus is Giles, ending the series by leaving Sunnydale. As he had already done so many times.
  • Overall ranking: #6
  • Ranking on Buffy: #4
  • Total words spoken on Buffy: 48,993
    • Season 1: 8372
    • Season 2: 10,410
    • Season 3: 8183
    • Season 4: 7948
    • Season 5: 6665
    • Season 6: 3637
    • Season 7: 3778
  • Total speaking appearances on Buffy: 121
    • Ranking #1: 3
    • Ranking #2: 23
    • Ranking #3: 23
    • Ranking #4: 15
    • Ranking #5: 15
    • Minor: 42
Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments:

Post a Comment