Giles, Rupert

Giles, Rupert

(pop culture)

Rupert Giles, a major character on the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was the Watcher who in 1997 was assigned to Buffy Summers the new Slayer who had arrived at Sunnydale High School. His cover was to pose as the school librarian, very convenient as it allowed him to accumulate and store a variety of ancient and obscure texts that Buffy and her vampire and demon-hunting associates would need. It was also the perfect place to hold strategy sessions with the students that had gathered around the Slayer. Giles’ cool, unflappable, and thoroughly British style contrasted with Buffy’s often impulsive and bottom-line approach to her work. Over time, however, they developed a close relationship and she credits him with her maturity.

Giles came from a line of Watchers, which included his father and grandmother. He was a reluctant recruit to the Watcher’s ranks, but after time dabbling in the occult, and working in a museum—both of which would provide useful background for his task—he accepted the assignment with Buffy. As her Watcher he provided information, guided the emergence of her own powers and talents, trained her in various fighting skills, and offered magical and other back-up as needed. At times he operated as a substitute for Buffy’s largely absent father.

It is Giles who laid out the mythical world in which the Slayer operates in the first two episodes of Buffy and he was usually the one who brought forth the texts that were relevant to the current situation. As the series progresses, and Buffy’s friend Willow Rosenberg masters the computer, she begins to rival Giles in knowledge, albeit from a different source.

Once in Sunnydale, he began dating and fell in love with Jenny Calendar, a teacher at the high school. He later learned that she was from the Gypsy tribe that cursed Angel by giving him back his soul and it was her job to keep an eye on him. When Angel reverted to his evil Angelus-self in season two, Jenny worked to reinstitute his soul, but Angel killed her before she could finish the spell. A short time later, Giles was kidnapped by Angel and tortured. He never really trusted Angel after that incident.

Following the destruction of Sunnydale High School at the end of season three, Giles spent a year unemployed but then purchased an occult shop that became the new headquarters of the Slayer and her friends. He is especially helped by Anya, the former demon who became Xander Harris‘s girlfriend. Naïve in the ways of the world, she was fascinated with the idea of sales and moneymaking. At one point, Giles ate some enchanted candy supplied by an old acquaintance named Ethan Rayne. As a result, he reverted to his teen consciousness, commits some acts of vandalism and thievery, and had a brief sexual encounter with Buffy’s mother Joyce.

As Buffy matured, she became more independent and developed a significant distrust of the Watcher’s Council. She eventually cut her ties with the council, but asked Giles to remain her Watcher. He did so for a little while, during which time Buffy’s new sister, Dawn, appeared, and Buffy’s mother died.

With the death of Joyce, Buffy was left without an income, and slowly developed a mountain of debt. Meanwhile, she sacrificed herself to save Dawn and the world. Giles decided it was time for him to withdraw, and he returned to England just as Willow, now an accomplished witch, organized Buffy’s friends in a great magical action that brought her back from the dead. Upon learning that Buffy had come back, Giles returned to Sunnydale. Though happy to see Buffy again, he denounced Willow’s action as the work of an amateur. Having surmised that his presence is blocking Buffy’s further growth and independence, he now readied himself to return to England, but before leaving, he gave Buffy a substantial check, enough to pay off her debt and carry her until she could reestablish herself financially.

After Giles left for England, Willow goes on a magical rampage after her lover Tara was killed. Hearing of her destructive activity, Giles returned and allows her to drain him almost to the point of death. His act infused Willow with some positive magical energy and set the stage for Xander to reason her back to her senses, after which Giles took Willow to England for a time of recovery.

In the midst of the final season, Giles returned to Sunnydale for a last time, bringing with him all the potential Slayers for the final battle set up by the First Evil. In the final episode, he was present for the battle at the Hellmouth, and was one of the survivors.

Giles played a role, though never seen, in the last season of Angel. He was now in Europe training a host of new Slayers and working with former Sunnydale resident (and comic relief) Andrew Wells, who is in training as a Watcher. Angel contacts Giles in an attempt to find Buffy.

In the comic book season eight of Buffy, Giles now heads Buffy’s international slaying operations in England. At one point, he recruited the Slayer Faith to assist him in killing a rogue Slayer named Gigi and her colleague Roden, both headed on a highly destructive course. As a result of their actions, Buffy broke relations with Giles, but he continues as an active character in the continuing comic season.

In the wake of the ending of the Buffy TV series, Joss Whedon confirmed rumors of a possible BBC follow-up series built around Giles and called Ripper. As late as 2007, he reconfirmed that pals for the series were active, but production had not been initiated as of 2009.

Although one of the most popular characters in the show, Giles was among the least featured in the paraphernalia spun off from the show. He appeared on a variety of trading cards, most notably the Men of Sunnydale set from Inkworks (2005), and in several action figures. Meanwhile, librarians appreciated the identification of Giles’s occupation and wisdom with his many skills in martial arts and magic, leading some to argue that he had done more to improve the image of the profession than anyone in recent years.


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DeCandido, GraceAnne A. “Bibliographic Good vs. Evil in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” American Libraries 30.8 (1999): 44–47.
Dupuy, Coralline. “Is Giles Simply Another Dr. Van Helsing? Continuity and Innovation in the Figure of the Watcher in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” In Refractory: A Journal of Entertainment Media 2 (2003). Special Issue on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Eds. Angela Ndalianis and Felicity Colman. Posted at: Accessed July 15, 2009.
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Holder, Nancy, with Jeff Mariotte and Maryelizabeth Hart. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Watcher’s Guide. Volume 2. New York: Pocket Books, 2000. 472 pp.
Ruditis, Paul. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Watcher’s Guide. Volume 3. New York: Simon Spotlight, 2004. 359 pp.
The Vampire Book, Second Edition © 2011 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.