Favorite Character Archetypes: Good Guy with a Dark Past.

Today, I want to talk about one of my favorite character “archetypes”, put in quotes because I’m not exactly sure if this can be defined as one but I have no other word for it. 

One of my favorites would be “Good Guy with a Dark Past”. Now I will define what this archetype means to me specifically, being that guy that the reader/viewer is introduced as this loveable, occasionally nerdy character but as we proceed through the story, we learn of the characters past either in a flashback or that past affecting the characters present. The after we’re introduced to this character’s past, we slowly see parts of who that character once was, especially when their loved ones are at risk. 

An example of this archetype is Rupert Giles, often just called Giles from, Suprise Suprise Buffy the Vampire Slayer(this isn’t going to be last time I talk about this show, fair warning). 

Rupert Giles serves as a “watcher” for Buffy and as the show continues, he ultimately gets the title of father figure. 

Rupert at the age we meet him appears to be highly intelligent and kind of a stick in the mud. But little do we know he has a history of being quite the opposite. The first time I feel we get a glimpse of this is in “The Dark Age” Season 2 Episode 8. 

In the recap of this episode I will be leaving certain details not pertaining to Giles or his story out as they aren’t relevant in this, but I highly recommend checking out the episode, the whole show in general. 

The episode begins with the shot of a man trying to get into the school’s library to see Giles then he proceeds to get strangled by supernatural looking woman who turns into a puddle of green slime after killing him. Later on in the episode Giles and Buffy make a plan to meet at the hospital later on that night as there will be a blood delivery that is bound to attract vamps. Later Giles heads to the library after being asked to a date by Jenny Calendar, the schools computer teacher. When he gets to the library, he is confronted by a detective who informs him that the man who was murdered in the beginning of the episode had Giles’ address on him.  They have Giles identify the corpse whom he identifies as an old friend of his, when asked about the tattoo on his friend he claims to not be able to recognize it. This whole debacle causes Giles to forget about his plans with Buffy, which causes Buffy to worry and attempt to check on Giles who shoos her away clearly inebriated. After sending her away Giles attempts to call and check on a friend in London ultimately finding out she has also passed away. He proceeds to cross her name off a list of names (all of which are also crossed off). In his concentration he rolls his sleeves up revealing the same tattoo that he claimed not to be able to recognize earlier in the episodes.  The shot cuts to the previously dead friend, Phillip seemingly resurrects in morgue escaping with flashing eyes. 

The next day Buffy attempts to confront Giles in the Library, in there she finds Ethan, a man she has a less than positive past with this is the first time the “Mark of Eyghon” is mentioned, followed by Giles informing Buffy of impending danger and immediately after a resurrected Phillip enters. After some brief combat “Phillip” turns into green goo, some of which gets onto an unconscious Jenny, who awakes with flashing eyes before being ushered off by Giles who didn’t notice. At their house there’s some back and forth, which includes some very off-putting flirting when you consider the depth of the situation before Eyghon ultimately reveals that he has possessed Jenny.  After Buffy comes in the possessed Jenny flees. This is when Giles provides some clarity about the whole situation, Giles was friends with some not so responsible people who used Eyghon’s possession as a sort of high. This fun quickly come to an end when Eyghon killed one of the people he was possessing. And now the demon was on a murderous rampage attempting to kill anyone who was once a part of the group.-End of Summary. 

Thats where I’m capping the summary for brevity and in an attempt to not fully spoil it. 

But Giles’ past doesn’t just cap there, this episode was also the first time we heard him referred to as “Ripper”, a name he adopted in his youth while dabbling in dark magics. We get a taste of the “Ripper’s” over all personality in “Band Candy” Season 3 Episode 6, which overall synopsis has to do with this possessed candy that turns fully responsible adults into their teenage selves. This episode we see the “Ripper” as a rebellious law-breaking teenager with a band(called Wretched, and Giles is actually a beautiful singer, but that’s neither here nor there). 

This wild past highly contrasts when compared to his studious adult ways. That is until you see we him defend those he loves or scolds them. I think we see this when he threatens the principal in Buffy’s honor. Or when we see him kill Ben, a human(a big thing given the fact that Buffy won’t even kill a human) to ensure the protection of humanity. Or Interrogate Glory’s minions. Or possibly when we see him scold Willow about using dark magics and then dual with her when she goes all Dark Willow. Or even his bouts with Ethan. 

No number of words from me can fully detail what a phenomenal character Giles is in my opinion. He definitely is one my favorite characters ever by far.

Rupert Giles

Author: Sone’t Robinson

My name is Sone't Robinson and writing for me is an outlet. It's a way to be heard when I feel like my words have fallen on deaf ears. I write out of necessity as well as passion. I've used my pen to write my peace and paper has been the greatest listener I've ever met. I'd encourage even those who don't have a passion for writing or literature to do the same.

3 thoughts on “Favorite Character Archetypes: Good Guy with a Dark Past.”

  1. Very interesting. I’m enjoying these Buffy the vampire slayer posts.
    I don’t know if this counts as an Archetype, But My favorite is the old sensei/teacher, who has the delinquent/rambunctious student. Like Naruto and Jiraiya from Naruto, or Miyamoto Musashi with Takuan Soho, in Vagabond series.

  2. One of my family members watches Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so naturally I’m a bit curious about it. After this post, I totally think it would be worth it for me to watch! It sounds interesting, and I love well developed characters. ‘Good guy with a dark past characters’ are so fun, too. You have to decide if you can forgive them for what they’ve done, and opinions can vary so much!

  3. I love these types of characters! especially if they have not just a dark past but a criminal past! it really adds to the dimension of who they are and what they stand for now that they’re reformed or somewhere in between

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