Ian Berriman totally recalls Xander Harris from Buffy.
Iguess it’s no great surprise that Xander is the Buffy The Vampire Slayer character I empathise with the most. He’s not a fighter – how many hours must actor Nicholas Brendon have spent being tossed into corners? He has no supernatural abilities, no command of magic. On the face of it, his only skill is his verbal dexterity. He’s clearly a surrogate for Buffy creator Joss Whedon, who’s confessed he was “a pathetic loser” in high school. His romantic life is generally a disaster. He owns a collection of Babylon 5 commemorative plates. Yes, it’s all a bit close to home…
Yet in other respects… what would I give to be more like Xander? He’s a far better person than I am. Although his feelings of uselessness – that he’s the Scooby Gang’s fifth wheel – recur, time and time again he proves himself. Season three’s Xander-centric “The Zeppo” – which ingeniously makes the apocalypse the B-plot, while Xander’s misadventures play out in the foreground – is one of my favourites. In it, Xander saves every one of his friends from being blown to pieces, just by being prepared to die to save them. That’s real bravery. And when Wiccan Willow goes Dark in season six, consumed with a thirst for magical vengeance after her girlfriend’s death, it’s Xander – in a heartbreaking scene – who talks her down, by simply telling his friend over and over that he loves her, and will always love her, no matter what. Gulp. It’s the sort of role which looks easy, but watch “The Replacement”, in which Xander’s split into two personalities – one klutzy, one confident – and suddenly you become aware of all the hard work Nicholas Brendon’s doing to infuse the character with nervous energy and charm. The guy has talent. That makes it all the more sad that Brendon’s life has gone off the rails since the show ended, with struggles with depression and alcoholism resulting in failed suicide attempts and multiple arrests (most troublingly, the actor last year pleaded guilty to choking his girlfriend during a fight). If only it was as straightforward to achieve redemption in real life as it is in a TV script. Let’s hope he can earn it. That doesn’t affect how I feel about Xander, though. You can call him the audience identification figure, label him as the comic relief, but that’s doing the character a huge disservice. He’s the beating heart of Buffy, and I can’t imagine it working without him.
Ian laughs in the face of danger, and then he hides until it goes away.