The Assassination of Cordelia Chase
As any good writer knows–and the writers at Mutant Enemy, the company that produced Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, are usually very good writers–the first law of characterization is “Never violate your character’s core identity.” You can play all the variations on her psychology that you want, you can show her growing and regressing, making huge mistakes and taking huge maturation leaps, but you cannot violate who she is at heart. As a centuries-old and wise Darla tells Angel, “What we once were informs all that we have become”(“The Prodigal,” A1-15). The choice between honoring character to show growth and mutilating character to serve plot spells the difference between the delighted reaction, “I can’t believe she did that!” and the betrayed protest, “I don’t believe she’d do that.” The writers at ME have played fast and loose with character before (let’s not talk about “Doublemeat Palace,” B6-12), but they never sinned so deeply as they did when they destroyed the character of Cordelia Chase.
From the moment Cordelia appears in “Welcome to the Hellmouth,” the first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she is a clear-cut character, smiling a wide, bright toothpaste smile that disguises the calculating glint in her eye. Her first act is to beam at Buffy while sharing her history book, an overt kindness that disguises Cordy’s covert motive: finding out if the new girl in town is a potential acolyte or a potential threat to Cordy’s kingdom. She alienates Buffy by committing the worst of …