Saturday, March 26, 2011

Buffy Doppelgängers

A doppelgänger is a ghost that takes on the shape of a living person. While Joss Whedon's Buffyverse has not tended to go very far into the idea of ghosts, it has gotten a fair amount of mileage out of the idea of a living character encountering a facsimilie of him- or herself. I actually have found screencaps of eight different occassions in the Buffyverse where a character shares the screen with someone or something looking exactly like him/her (and, of course, played by the same actor). Here they are, with explanations of what exactly is going on in the image.

WILLOW: This is a still from Doppelgängland, the follow-up to The Wish. In that former episode, Anya (in her first appearance) creates an aternate world, one in which Willow and Xander are vampires (among other differences). VampWillow was such a popular creation that Joss Whedon decided to bring her back, for this episode in which she passes through from her dimension to the 'real world'. This picture, then, depicts VampWillow and 'normal' Willow (not tough to guess which is which). As a clue to where the Willow character will be going down the years, this episode is significant - not merely because it has the first intimations that Willow might be gay. This episode gives Willow a taste of what she can be like with a little more self-confidence, and afterward she becomes a genuinely more self-confident character.

XANDER: In The Replacement, a demon named Toth has a weapon that he intends to use on Buffy. In theory, the weapon should split Buffy into two: one with all of her 'Slayer' traits and one with her 'normal person' traits. Accidentally, the weapon is trained on Xander, creating two Xanders - one with the very best aspects of his personality and one with the very worst. That's what we see in this picture, and unlike the others, 'they're both Xander'. There is really no 'doppelganger' here alongside the 'real Xander' (though the episode is set up to give the false impression that that is exactly what is happening). By the end of the episode, the two have been reunited, but as with Willow, this episode is also a turning-point for Xander in that it shows Xander becoming, as his 'good-side' version indicated, more mature and responsible. Plus, we get a nice look back when Xander says to Willow, "Hey, wait till you have an evil twin; see how you handle it," and she replies (to herself), "I handled it fine."

BUFFY: Warren, who will become the bad-guy in season 6, is introduced in season 5 as a 'geek' who can build robot love slaves. He builds one for himself and then is forced by Spike to build a 'RoboBuffy' for him. While this 'BuffyBot' will return in season 6, in this first appearance, Intervention, she is a comically chipper addition to what had become a rather morose show, following the death of Buffy's mother Joyce. In this picture, the BuffyBot, on the right, has been deactivated, and the real Buffy is staring at it, unconvinced of its accuracy.

SPIKE: The villain of season 7 is 'The First', a shapeshifting non-corporeal entity that can take the form of any person who has died. While this obviously doesn't create many opportunities for doppelgangers, it does in the case of Buffy (who has died twice) and Spike (who, as a vampire, is technically dead). Here, the First is in the guise of Spike, goading Spike on in Sleeper. The First has managed to 'take control' of Spike, and has for a while been using different visages to keep him borderline-insane. From time to time, the First appears also as Buffy, and on a few occasions (notably series finale Chosen) speaks face-to-face with the real Buffy, creating a second 'Buffy doppelgänger' incident.

CORDELIA: This is perhaps an incidental case, but on the Angel episode Birthday, Cordelia has an out-of-body experience while knocked out after receiving a particularly powerful vision. In the picture above, the waking Cordelia is invisible to the others, who have crowded around the comatose Cordelia on the floor behind her. In this particular case, it's tough to describe the 'other' Cordy as really a doppelgänger, since it is her: one is her body, one her spirit.

ANGEL: Angel is, of course, a vampire. When soulless, he used the name Angelus, but once ensouled dropped the Latin suffix. As Angel's story develops across both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, the soulless Angelus and the ensouled Angel come to be viewed as two distinct entities within the same body. This reaches its pinnacle in Orpheus, in which a subconscious dreamspace inhabited by both Angelus and Faith produces an ensouled Angel as a distinct entity (with much longer hair) for Angelus to fight. Thus either two seperate entities are fighting each other or one entity is causing two sides of itself to fight each other. Shrug: either way, this is the end result.

LORNE: This is perhaps also a tangential one. In Life of the Party, Lorne has 'had his sleep removed' in order to get more accomplished. The stress, however, gets to him as he tries to catch a moment to himself in front of a dressing table mirror. The mirror begins to talk to him, and indeed sing to him, before he frustratedly smashes the mirror. This is what we're seeing, but what are we seeing? Probably nothing more than a figment of Lorne's imagination and, in fact, no doppelgänger at all... but we do see two Lornes talking to each other, which is what we're looking at here.

GUNN: Last but not least, in the final season of Angel, Gunn has taken on a particular role in Wolfram & Hart that allows him pretty regular access to the 'White Room', where he discusses things with 'the conduit', which most of the time takes the form of a white tiger. In this particular case, however, in the episode A Hole in the World, the cat has been replaced by a facsimilie of Gunn himself, perhaps because the scene required dialogue, and getting dialogue from a tiger is a difficult task at best.

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