Monday, May 31, 2010

#45: Anne

Of all the minor characters in the Buffyverse, none has evolved as much as Anne, a/k/a Chanterelle a/k/a Lily. Played by Julia Lee with a naïveté that growns into a streetwise optimism and humanism, the character makes five appearances over a remarkable seven seasons on both shows.

Three of Anne's five appearances are on Joss Whedon scripts, and her minor début, on the Buffy season two episode “Lie to Me”, is one of them, using the mushroom-name Chanterelle and worshipping vampires in a secret society. Her character is almost painfully childlike here, and seems like the last character you'd expect to be resurrected – which, of course, is what makes her a fitting choice for the 'chance encounter' that pulls Buffy back to her destiny after having escaped to Los Angeles in the season three opener “Anne”, also written by Joss Whedon. Here, she's adopted the name Lily (Anne is Buffy's chosen alias, though she'll pass it on at the end of the episode, providing this character with her third and final name) and plays a street-kid drifter on L.A.'s 'mean streets'. This is a more substantial role, coming in at number three on the episode's word count and establishing the character who will appear in three episodes of Angel.

Youth shelter administrator Anne Steele appears in three episodes of Angel, two in rapid succession in season two: “Blood Money”, where she puts in a #2 appearance as an unwitting accomplice in Angel's schemes against Wolfram and Hart, and two episodes later, “The Thin Dead Line”, where she puts in a #3 appearance fighting zombie cops with Angel's estranged team. Suddenly, three seasons later, Anne makes a welcome appearance in the series, and the Buffyverse, finale “Not Fade Away”. It's a nice touch: all of the characters are given the chance to spend their 'last day' doing whatever they'd please, and Gunn chooses to visit Anne and help out at the shelter. It's a minor appearance, but Anne gets in the quote included above, which seems terribly mundane out of context, but within the episode serves as a kind of philosophical credo for perhaps the whole series. It's a fitting conclusion to this caring journeyman character, who ends the series still alive and kicking.

Incidentally, though Anne is the first crossover character we've seen, she's not the crossover character with the lowest word count. The Master, Buffy's season one foe, falls outside the top 50. And of course the least worthy crossover characters have to be the incompetent trio of Watcher's Council 'wet works' experts, who follow Faith from Buffy to Angel in seasons four and one, respectively.
  • Overall ranking: #45
  • Ranking on Buffy: #53
  • Ranking on Angel: #29
  • Total words spoken on Buffy: 699
    • Season 2: 146
    • Season 3: 553
  • Total words spoken on Angel: 1357
    • Season 2: 1241
    • Season 5: 116
  • Total words spoken in the Buffyverse: 2056
  • Total speaking appearances on Buffy: 2
    • Ranking #3: 1
    • Minor: 1
  • Total speaking appearances on Angel: 3
    • Ranking #2: 1
    • Ranking #3: 1
    • Minor: 1
  • Total speaking appearances in the Buffyverse: 5

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Friday, May 28, 2010

#46: Caleb

Joss Whedon-regular Nathan Fillion plays the evil priest Caleb, a 'right hand man' for Season 7 Big Bad the First, whose non-corporeal nature made it a rather ephemeral enemy to fight against. Caleb is a misogynist, who uses a preacher's cadences to declaim against women and in favour of evil. He seems to be a bit of a last-minute addition for the writers, who found themselves having written an enemy that somehow didn't seem scary or villiany enough. Suddenly, a trash-talking 'man of the cloth' comes along to do an appropriate level of damage.

Caleb makes his first appearance in the show's fifth-last episode, but appears in every episode after that. That début, “Dirty Girls”, written by Drew Goddard, could not be a more auspicious one. With a stunning 1236 words, Caleb not only gets the #1 rank for this episode, speaking more words than anyone else, Buffy included, but he actually speaks an amazing 27.9% - more than a quarter – of the whole episode. It's the fourth highest single-episode word count of the season.

It's downhill from there, of course, as he totals only 789 words in his other four appearances combined. The very next episode, “Empty Places”, he comes in fourth. But it's minor appearances after that, until series finale “Chosen”, where he gets a mere 28-word swan song between near-fatal and fatal scythe slices from Buffy (the 132 words that the First speaks in Caleb's body don't count: those go on the First's word count).
  • Overall ranking: #46
  • Ranking on Buffy: #29
  • Total words spoken on Buffy: 2025
    • Season 7: 2025
  • Total speaking appearances on Buffy: 5
    • Ranking #1: 1
    • Ranking #4: 1
    • Minor: 3
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Thursday, May 27, 2010

#47: Skip

Skip, the demon from another dimension that, among other things, serves as Cordelia's 'spirit guide' makes only four appearances on Angel, so in order to show up on this list, he needs to have made each one count. It's actually worth discussing each particular episode in detail. Though two of the four appearances are technically 'minor' (falling outside the top five), make no mistakes: Skip makes no cameos.

The Jeffrey Bell-written “That Vision Thing” is Skip's début appearance, as a demon in a holding dimension guarding Billy, an evil character who will later have an episode devoted to him. Skip plays his particular combination of powerful evil and aw-shucks hoi polloi very well here, but he's clearly a bit character. He becomes a 'character who matters' on the Cordelia-episode “Birthday”, where his very likeable role as Cordelia's 'spirit guide' makes him the #2 character (behind Cordelia, obviously) in this episode. It's a role he plays again on season finale “Tomorrow”, where he guides Cordelia on her ascent to the higher plane. The rather confused season four episode “Inside Out”, which bridges the 'beastmaster' episodes to the Jasmine episodes, has so much backstory to narrate (or reboot) that Skip's role here as the Greek chorus is enough to give the long-winded character a number-two finish. And a full-and-complete 'finish' too, as Wesley shoots him terminally in the head.

480 words per episode is an amazingly high average word count: one that not only is higher than the three characters we've already discussed (not much lower than their combined per-episode word count) but is actually a higher average than most of the two series' main characters.
  • Overall ranking: #47
  • Ranking on Angel: #23
  • Total words spoken on Angel: 1918
    • Season 3: 1119
    • Season 4: 799
  • Total speaking appearances on Angel: 4
    • Ranking #2: 2
    • Minor: 2
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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

#48: Prof. Walsh

Professor Maggie Walsh is one of the many Buffyverse characters with a double life: on the one hand, she's a well-respected psychology professor at U.C. Sunnydale. On the other hand, she's the main visionary behind 'the Initiative', a government-sponsored project designed to research demons and to harness their powers. Professor Walsh is not season four's 'Big Bad', but she is, perhaps inadvertently, its author: her pet project is the Frankenstein-esque Adam, the season's main antagonist. As such, while she definitely falls into the evil side of the good-evil spectrum (trying to have Buffy killed at one point, for example), she can't be considered entirely evil.

On Buffy, Professor Walsh is entirely a season four phenomenon, débuting in the Joss Whedon-penned season opener, “The Freshman” and going on to appear in eight of the first thirteen episodes, often as the stock university professor (she is the only one of any real consequence we ever meet). Her swan song, season 13, “The I in Team” is also by no small amount her biggest role. In that episode alone, she logs in 796 words of dialogue, second only to Buffy. She dies at the end of this episode, killed by her creation Adam, appearing only once thereafter, as a kind of zombie in episode 21, “Primeval”. Inasmuch as it even counts, her five-word appearance here is her briefest appearance.

Professor Walsh ranks in the top five only once, excepting her co-starring role in “The I in Team”. That is in the much-reviled episode “Beer Bad”, where she merits a fifth place ranking. Despite this, she actually makes it into the top ten of the season: she has the ninth-largest word count of season four.
  • Overall ranking: #48
  • Ranking on Buffy: #30
  • Total words spoken on Buffy: 1912
    • Season 4: 1912 (#9)
  • Total speaking appearances on Buffy: 9
    • Ranking #2: 1
    • Ranking #5: 1
    • Minor: 7
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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

#49: Ben

Ben was a slightly nebbish, awkward, but generally well-meaning nurse whose role in Buffy season five appeared to, tentatively, be as a love interest for Buffy, before ultimately being as the human alter-ego for the season's 'big bad', Glory.

While the mythology of Buffy season five is rich and best experienced by watching the season, essentially Glory is a god from a hell dimension who was dethroned and imprisoned in our dimension, forced to share a body with an innocent human – namely, Ben. We first meet Ben, however, at the hospital, in episode 4,  “Out of My Mind”, written by Rebecca Rand Kirshner. Though he appears nowhere outside of season five, he appears in fully 14 of that season's 22 episodes (two more than Glory herself), increasing in importance towards the end of the arc, in particular the 20th episode, “Spiral”, where he has the third-most lines (339 words), and the 21st episode, “The Weight of the World”, where he comes in 5th, primarily on the back of a lengthy dialogue between himself and Glory, featuring almost constant morphing. This is the only real episode where we see any sign of 'darkness', as Ben struggles between his desire to save Dawn and his desire to save himself. His briefest appearance is in “Family”, with a mere 27 words.

Despite appearing in the majority of season five episodes, Ben is not one of the top ten season five characters. He manages a mere 1857 words in all of those appearances – the fourth-smallest word count for a character with more than 10 screen credits to his or her name (the others are Initiative member Forrest, Potential Slayer Amanda and Wolfram and Hart employee Gavin, all of whom fall outside the top 40).

In one of the most surprising plot points of Buffy, Ben in murdered in cold blood by Giles, a crime that goes entirely unnoticed and, thus, unpunished.
  • Overall ranking: #49
  • Ranking on Buffy: #31
  • Total words spoken on Buffy: 1857
    • Season 5: 1857
  • Total speaking appearances on Buffy: 14
    • Ranking #3: 1
    • Ranking #5: 1
    • Minor: 12
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Monday, May 24, 2010

#50: The Groosalugg

Played by Canadian swimmer Mark Lutz, the Groosalugg was a minor love interest of Cordelia's who hailed from Pylea, the demon dimension of Lorne's birth.

A rather comically naïve and childlike character, the Groosalugg is of half human and half demon stock. In the Pylean hell dimension, this makes him an outcaste, yet his feats of strength allow him to unintentionally fulfil prophecies as the Groosalugg, the character who will com-shuk with the princess in order to inherit her visions.

The Pylean arc occurs at the end of season two of Angel. Naturally, this is where we meet him, in the Tim Minear-penned “Through the Looking Glass”episode 21, Groo's first and overall most statistically-significant appearance. In that episode, Groo logged in 372 words, the fifth highest number of words that episode, and more than any other non-L.A. character.

Though he also, naturally, appears in the season two closer, “There's No Place Like Plrtz Glrb”, the Groosalugg's main contribution to the show is neither in season two nor in Pylea. The Groosalugg appears in fully seven episodes in season three, where he appears to be a love interest for Cordelia, but ultimately he essentially serves as a catalyst through which she can discover her true feelings for Angel before departing to Pylea, where presumably he survives the end of the series. Episode 14, “Couplet”, is the main Groo episode of season three, but even at that, he falls outside the top five. His briefest appearance is eight words in the episode immediately preceding that, “Waiting in the Wings”, where his unexpected appearance thwarts Angel's first major attempt at confessing his feelings to Cordelia.
  • Overall ranking: #50
  •  Ranking on Angel: #24
  •  Total words spoken on Angel: 1852
    •  Season 2: 611
    •  Season 3: 1241
  •  Total speaking appearances on Angel: 9
    •  Ranking #5: 1
    •  Minor: 8
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Friday, May 21, 2010

The Top Fifty Buffyverse Characters

A significant portion of this blog is going to be dedicated to statistical analysis of the dialogue of the two TV shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. I've gone through every word spoken in 12 seasons on the two shows and tabulated them. Among the results that that brings, I can produce grand totals of how many words each character spoke for the duration of the show - or of any particular character's tenure or the show. So in so doing, I've made a list of the shows' 'top fifty' characters - but it's important to note that this isn't some devoted fan's personal favourites: by 'top fifty', I mean the fifty characters who have spoken the most dialogue. To a certain extent that means the characters who have had the greatest impact on the shows, who have been most central - a valid measurement for 'top fifty'. But even at that, it would probably be better to gauge that from a combination of words spoken and screen time. Certainly some characters - Oz, for example, have word counts much lower than their relative significance, while others are just excessively chatty characters.

Still, it's a list with merit, and each of the fifty will get an entry - counting down, one per weekday, from 50 to 1 - listing various stats related to that person. And a picture of each! Yay.

As the list grows, I'll provide links to each page from here.
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