Buffy the Vampire Slayer is an incredibly iconic 90s TV series. Managing to draw fans from all walks of life, the story of a young woman who grapples with her destined role of Vampire Slayer and her normal teenage concerns of homework and boys has won the hearts of so many.
Although, as great as the character of Buffy is, the series would be nothing without the rest of the gang. The stories of Willow, Xander, Cordelia, Anya, Oz, and Tara, just to name a few, give the series its extra-special feel.
Likewise, the darkness of the lovable-vampire characters, such as Angel, Drusilla, and Spike, gives Buffy the Vampire Slayer an unbeatable edge that makes the show completely addictive.
However, the series would be nothing without Buffy’s destined counterpart, Rupert Giles, portrayed by Anthony Stewart Head. His multifaceted character gives the show a unique depth.
Giles fulfills the duties of Watcher, mentor, father-figure, friend, boss, teacher, and fighter, whilst also concealing a dark past which informs his almost aggressive, protective nature.
His complex character has been a prominent one throughout each season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and has formed a series of complicated but rich relationships with the other characters. Though each relationship has its difficulties, Giles’ consistently compassionate nature and loveable appearance has generally served to help him come out victorious in any conflict with a friend.
To understand more about Giles’ incredible storyline and character development, take a look at the information below. Included is information on his early life and dark past, in addition to his time in Sunnydale, as well as a detailed description of his relationships with other characters and how they develop.
Rupert Edmund Giles, most commonly known as Giles, was born in England, 1955. At just the age of ten, Giles was told by his father that he had a predestined life path. Giles was to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandmother, who were a part of the Council of Watchers.
As a Watcher, Giles would one day be responsible for the appropriate training and guidance of a Slayer.
However, this didn’t stop him from being a particularly rebellious teenager. If anything, Giles’ predetermined career path drove him to rebel and attempt to reject his destiny. Whilst attending Oxford University to study history, Giles became infatuated with the occult.
During this time, Giles dabbled with magic and once even summoned a vicious demon, Eyghon. Unfortunately, this summoning resulted in the death of one of Giles’ close friends. In turn, this event convinced Giles to give up his rebellious ways and accept his destiny as a Watcher.
Sunnydale And The Scooby Gang
Giles briefly worked as a curator within a museum before being assigned as Buffy’s Watcher by the Watchers’ Council. Once assigned, Giles travelled to Sunnydale, California, where he took on the role of librarian at Buffy’s highschool.
After meeting Buffy, and briefly having to convince her that she too must follow her destiny, Giles began training her as the Slayer, and guiding her through the treacherous challenges that Sunnydale presented.
In addition to becoming a father figure to Buffy, Giles developed close but authoritative relationships with her friends, Willow and Xander. They became an unlikely team, calling themselves the ‘Scooby Gang’.
Within this team, Giles was the researcher as well as the trainer, offering a substantial knowledge of all things vampire and demon. Though, he was also distinguished by his rather stuffy, very stereotypical, English nature.
Outside of the Scooby Gang, Giles seemed to have few friends or hobbies, aside from playing the guitar. Although, this changed when he met a computer science teacher, Jenny Calendar.
Despite the two seeming like an unlikely pair, due to Giles’ technophobic nature, the two found out that they have more in common than they first expected, when Jenny helped in finding and confining a demon.
Unfortunately, however, this pairing wasn’t to last for long, as Giles’ rebellious teenage years came back to haunt him. The demon Eyghon arrived in Sunnydale, with Giles’ old partner in occult shenanigans Ethan Rayne.
Before Giles and the team managed to defeat Eyghon once and for all, Jenny became possessed by the demon. Though she survived, she found it difficult to come to terms with the ordeal, and when she did, there remained more trouble to come for their relationship.
It was revealed that Jenny wasn’t who she said she was, but was rather sent to Sunnydale to spy on Buffy. Specifically, she was a part of the Kalderash gypsy clan, who cursed Angel by giving him back his soul.
Jenny told Giles that she was sent to Sunnydale to keep an eye on Angel’s relationship with Buffy, so that his soul will not be taken away from him again, turning Angel back into a ruthless killer. However, she failed to prevent this happening, and Angel murdered Jenny.
After the incident with Angel, Buffy left Sunnydale. It is at this time when the extent of Giles’ paternal feelings for Buffy became most clear, as he desperately searched for her. After she returned, Giles was ecstatic. However, their relationship remained complicated, and they both went on to feel betrayed by each other.
When Buffy became aware of Angel’s return from Hell, she decided to keep this information from Giles. This thwarted their father-daughter relationship, as Buffy protected the man who murdered his love, Jenny. Though, Giles did eventually move past this betrayal, as he agreed to help Angel and didn’t let this incident permanently falter his and Buffy’s relationship.
However, Giles soon after became the betrayer from Buffy’s perspective. The Watchers’ Council tradition of brutally testing Slayers’ when they reach adulthood, called Tento di Cruciamentum, had to be carried out on Buffy’s 18th birthday.
It was Giles’ responsibility to betray Buffy’s trust by secretly weakening her powers by injecting her with muscle relaxants. Giles eventually broke the rules of the tradition by revealing the situation to Buffy and admitting it was archaic and cruel.
Their watcher-slayer relationship was put at risk by this instance, as Giles was let go by the Watchers’ Council due to his paternal role in Buffy’s life. Whilst Giles was unemployed, Buffy and the Scooby Gang left school, with most of them attending college.
In turn, Giles also struggled with his waning authority and lack of place within the group, thanks to their new found independence. At this time, Giles spent a lot of time watching TV with Spike, feeling depressed and like an outsider.
Though there remained to be glimpses of hope for their relationship, a defeated Giles decided that he no longer wanted to be in Sunnydale. However, when Buffy expressed her wish that Giles were to be her Watcher again, Giles swiftly changed his mind.
As Buffy confessed her emotional dependence on Giles, and her reliance on him to discover more about her role as the Slayer, Giles’ and Buffy’s relationship entered a new honest era.
Buffy continued to confide in Giles, such as when she found out that her sister was in fact a strong, mystical force in human form, called the Key.
During this time, Buffy demanded that Giles be rehired as her Watcher. Giles, Buffy and the rest of the Scooby Gang continued to work together to fight off an evil God called Glory. However, to protect her sister and end that particular war, Buffy had to die.
Upon Buffy’s tragic death, Giles returned to England. However, Willow, Xander, Tara and Anya chose to resurrect Buffy without telling Giles. When Giles got news of this, he quickly returned to Sunnydale, both ecstatic to see Buffy and livid at the others for using dark magic.
As a consequence of her traumatic resurrection, Buffy became heavily dependent on Giles. Although, Giles refused to allow this co-dependence, and chose to leave the gang and headed back to England once again, for Buffy’s own sake.
Whilst in England, Giles heard of a rising dark power in Sunnydale, and chose to return. To his surprise, that rising dark power was Willow. He attempted to use a great magical power, borrowed from a coven in England, to defeat her, but her indestructibility quickly became clear.
However, he and Xander devised a plan, and managed to trick Willow, which returned her to her normal self. Giles took Willow to England, despite how she tried to kill him, to help rehabilitate her.
The First Evil
As The First Evil threatened Sunnydale, Giles once again stepped up to help the gang by rounding up a group of potential Slayers and convincing them to help. However, Giles’ relationship with the Scooby Gang was often made complicated. In particular, Giles and Buffy clashed over her care for Spike, which somewhat harmed Giles’ and Buffy’s relationship.
Although, Giles stood by Buffy and the Scooby Gang, and was an active member within the deadly battle of the Hellmouth. He survived, and left town with the remaining members of the group.
Personality / Traits
Giles was often understood as a stuffy, stereotypically English, old, librarian. However, his other personality traits quickly became apparent, and often contradicted his first impression.
Giles had, what can only be described as, a particularly nerdy sense of humour, which often amused the gang. Though he did always remain to be an old school man, who enjoyed 60s rock music, such as that performed by The Who, The Velvet Underground and Cream.
As a librarian, Giles was very much more fond of books than he was computers, and often described himself as a technophobe.
Giles was also a father-like figure to Buffy and the other Scooby Gang members. This trait distinguished Giles from other Watchers’, as his compassion and real care for the children he worked with always shone through.
However, there was a dark side to Giles’ personality, which separated him from the rest of the gang. His dark and rebellious youth would resurface multiple times. For instance, when Giles ate some sweets which returned adults to their teenage selves, Giles became completely reckless and a violent criminal.
This dark past was also visible when Giles’ old friend, Ethan Ryder, came to sunnydale. In fact, throughout the gang’s adventures, Giles also consistently showed a willingness to take part in morally questionable behaviours, such as murder and violence, if he believed the greater good was at stake.
Rupert Giles had dark brown, thin hair which slowly became greyer over the years. He had a kind face, but always seemed to appear slightly concerned.
Though he did wear a lot of tweed suits, and the gang even joked that he wore tweed nappies as a child, he does appear more relaxed later on in the series.
One consistency in his appearance was his glasses. Buffy noticed that the reason he regularly takes off his glasses and cleans them, is to make sure he doesn’t see some of the gang’s antics. He did this to prevent himself seeing Xander and Anya’s passionate kiss.
Powers / Abilities
Giles has a number of skills and abilities which came in very handy when fighting the evil within Sunnydale with the gang.
Knowledge was Giles’ main power, as he had an extensive understanding of demonology. Thanks to his training as a Watcher, he also knew a lot about combat, including an understanding of Jujitsu, Aikido and fencing.
He could speak and understand Latin, ancient Greek, Japanese, Gaelic and Sumerian, and also retained knowledge of spells and magic from his youth.
Later on, Giles’ gained more than just a mere understanding of magic. Upon being given powers by the Devon Coven, he became able to project energy and perform things such as teleportation.
Despite losing these powers, Giles’ innovative mind and intelligence turned his moderate understanding of magical processes into a great skill and power of his own.
In spite of the mild-mannered front, Giles could, and would, respond aggressively when the situation required it. He was able to hold his own in hand-to-hand combat and did well with a sword.
However, he also often responded aggressively to people when it may not have been necessary. For instance, when Buffy was expelled from school, Giles threatened to physically assault the principal to encourage him to readmit Buffy.
This aggression was never particularly outward, but hidden behind a very professional and calm exterior. This meant Giles was a useful person to have in a fearful situation, as he remained detached and authoritative.
Authority Figure / Mentor
In addition to being a mentor and paternal figure for Buffy, Giles often played this role for other younger members of the group too.
Willow was often at Giles’ side in the library doing research to help the gang overcome some demon. They bonded over a love of reading, and a highly intellectual shared nature.
In fact, their similarities caused a rift between them, as when Willow grew interested in dark magic, just as Giles had when he was younger, Giles attempted to steer Willow away from such activities.
Xander had a more conflicted relationship with Giles, as the more goofy, irritating character. However, they seemed to maintain a strange father/son relationship, in spite of their differences.
Giles had similar strange parental relationships with people such as Cordelia and Anya. Though they were very different from Giles in nature, he still treated them as members of the family.
Giles’ main romantic partner was Jennifer Calender. However, the two had a complicated relationship, wherein they both hid secrets from their pasts which eventually led to Jennifer’s death.
They were an unlikely pair to begin with, as Calendar was a computer science teacher, and Giles was a self-proclaimed technophobe. Although, they found common ground in their desire to fight demons, and went on to spend a lot of time together. However, both of their dark pasts resulted in possession, chaos and death.
Giles also had a quick romantic incident with Buffy’s mother, Joyce Summers. When both Giles and Joyce were unknowingly under the influence of magic chocolate, which reverted the consumer back to their teenage self, they were intimate multiple times. However, they never repeated the experience, and were very embarrassed about the encounter.
Olivia was an old friend of Giles from England, and he began dating her again during his period of unemployment. However, it wasn’t very serious.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer TV Series
Giles appeared in 121 episodes of the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He was a regular character in the first five seasons, and then continued to appear as a ‘Special Guest Star’ in many episodes of the sixth and seventh seasons. He is one of the few characters who appeared in both the premier and the finale.
Giles has also appeared in most of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer spin-off books, including The Lost Slayer series, the comic book continuation of the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, and Angel & Faith.
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