Ethan Rayne: A tribute - VIDEO
by Keith McDuffee, posted Jun 26th 2008 9:20AM
Every fan of Buffy has his or her own favorite main character (or characters). But what of the merely recurring characters? You've got Halfrek, the Vengeance Demon (sorry ... "Justice Demon"), Amy the witch/rat and Mr. Trick, to name a few. But there's one character who's always fascinated me, a character with a long, dark and mysterious past filled with magic, mayhem and chaos. I speak, of course, about Rupert "Ripper" Giles' mate from the old days, Ethan Rayne.
There's quite a lengthy article on Wikipedia all about Mr. Rayne, so I won't go into all of that too much. He appeared in only four episodes of Buffy: 'Halloween,' 'The Dark Age,' 'Band Candy' and 'A New Man.' I've always been a sucker for Halloween episodes, so he had that going for him right from the start. 'Band Candy' and 'A New Man' rank up there in my top ten favorite episodes, both written by Buffy writer/alum, Jane Espenson.
If you've seen any of my Battlestar Galactica posts, you know I've communicated with Jane a few times before. So, with Buffy being the subject of Retro Squad this week and my wanting to write about Ethan Rayne, I had to bug the poor gal one more time. Seeing as two of the four times he appeared were in episodes she had written, I wondered if she had a hand in inventing the character.
"Ethan was actually introduced before I joined the staff, in the 'Halloween' episode," Jane had to say when I asked her of her involvement in making Ethan Rayne who he was, at least as we saw him. "He reappeared in 'Band Candy.' I was so thrilled to get a chance to write him, because he was already one of my all-time favorites. I love the fine line between smoothness and dissipation."
What's made Ethan my favorite all-time recurring character is that tiny hint of his past with Giles in the "old days" of them playing around with witchcraft. "I also enjoyed any hints at Giles' past," said Jane. "It was fun to write for an older character sometimes (although, technically, Anya was perhaps our oldest)."
'A New Man' made my list of "The Five (by Five) best episodes of Buffy" a few years ago, and having Ethan Rayne a part of the shenanigans of the episode gave it that cherry on top. Of this episode, Jane says: "There was a much longer exchange between Ethan and Giles in the bar in my first draft -- stuff about their earliest experimentation with Magicks and lots of flirting with the waitress. It was far too long to be usable, but I was just having too much fun writing it. It was cut back well before it was filmed."
'A New Man' was the last time Ethan appeared in the television series, though he did turn up one last time in the Season 8 comics. Just as he did in the TV show, he played that fine line between trickster and savior, though usually the being a savior part was only to save his own hide. "I didn't know in advance that Ethan was returning for the comic books," Ms. Espenson said. "Although I was very happy to see him there."
A favorite scene of mine is from Ethan's short monologue from inside the crypt, just after Giles had left. "[That moment] was laid out explicitly by Joss during the breaking of that episode," says Jane. "All I did was take dictation. That was often the way on Buffy: the most memorable, wonderful material almost always appeared fully-formed in Joss's brain and we just copied exactly what he said."
Unfortunately, Ethan Rayne's journey ends there. I'd love him to reappear in flashbacks in the promised Ripper series, though I don't have high hopes there. There's so much to tap into with Giles' past, and as was made quite clear, Ethan's been a big part of that past.
And so, I'm raising a pint to dear old and departed Ethan Rayne -- may he live once again in print or on film, if not just in the darkness of our hearts.