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|Buffy the Vampire Slayer character|
Robin Sachs as Ethan Rayne
|Last appearance||The Long Way Home|
|Created by||Joss Whedon, Carl Ellsworth|
|Portrayed by||Robin Sachs|
|Affiliation||Gods of Chaos|
Little is known about Ethan's early years, although his accent suggests he is English. The first time he appears is in the episode "Halloween", when he reveals his dark nature. More information is revealed in the second season episode "The Dark Age". In the early 1970s, Ethan met and became friends with Rupert Giles, then known as "Ripper." Giles had dropped out of Oxford University and traveled to London to seek out the worst crowd that would have him. Associating with the dregs of the supernatural subculture that exist in the Buffyverse, he was in a phase later described by Xander Harris as an "electric Kool-Aid funky Satan groove."
The group practiced small magics for pleasure and gain, until Ethan and Ripper discovered something bigger: the demon known as Eyghon, or the Sleepwalker. Tattooing themselves with the Mark of Eyghon, they would take turns falling asleep, and the rest of the group would summon the demon into the sleeper. According to Giles, it was an extraordinary high, a euphoric feeling of power, but was also incredibly risky. When Eyghon took control of Randall, one of their group, the others tried to exorcise the demon, resulting in Randall's death. Giles was changed by the event, leaving London and returning to the Watchers' Council. Ethan, on the other hand, went in the opposite direction, delving deeper into the black arts. When Ethan asked, years later, why they had stopped being friends Giles replied, "When you started to worship chaos." There are also hints that Ethan and Giles may have been lovers. Ethan seems motivated by revenge for something that happened between him and Giles.
Ethan was first introduced in the second season episode "Halloween" as the seemingly benevolent owner of a costume shop. His worship of chaos served as a convenient plot excuse for random supernatural occurrences. Becoming a magical subcontractor and making deals with demons, vampires, and humans alike in his varied jobs, Ethan gained a reputation for getting the job done. He has performed magic without apparent financial reward, but simply for the amusement of chaos.
Opening a small costume shop in Sunnydale's business district around October 1997, Ethan curses his costumes in the name of the Roman god Janus, so that the wearer becomes whatever they are dressed as. For example, once the spell is cast, Xander Harris becomes a soldier, Buffy Summers becomes an 18th-century noblewoman, and Willow Rosenberg becomes an actual ghost. Upon discovering that Ethan is responsible, Giles describes the spell as "sick, brutal, and it harms the innocent", and proceeds to beat Ethan until he reveals how to break the spell.
Later, in the episode "The Dark Age", Ethan comes looking for Giles in the Sunnydale High School library. He has been having dreams of Eyghon, and the fate of the others who wear "the Mark." Ethan knows that somehow the demon has returned again and is roaming free upon the world. The Mark of Eyghon on the original group members acts as a beacon for the demon to locate them, kill them, and possess each corpse in turn to hunt his next victim with. Ethan plans to 'hide behind the Slayer', exploiting her desire to protect Giles and thus protect Ethan in the process. Knocking Buffy unconscious, he waits for her to wake up before tattooing the Mark of Eyghon on the back of her neck and removing his own Mark with acid. The substitution works, and the demon loses interest in him, instead going after Buffy. But Giles arrives, and then her friends, who stop Eyghon from killing both of them.
In the Season Three episode "Band Candy", the vampire Mr. Trick, in the employ of Mayor Richard Wilkins, calls on Ethan's services when he needs Sunnydale's adult population distracted during a tribute ceremony for the demon Lurconis. Ethan curses candy bars that are distributed to adults through Sunnydale High School students. The curse on the chocolate makes adults act as if they are teenagers, leaving many areas of the city unprotected, including the hospital where the tribute of small babies needs to be taken from. Buffy and Giles uncover the plot, and stop Mr. Trick and Ethan (who claims ignorance of the nature of the tribute), but they both escape.
In the fourth season, Ethan returns to Sunnydale in the episode "A New Man". Discovered lurking in a crypt by Giles, he talks him out of a promised beating, and instead, they go for a drink together. Ethan warns Giles that the Initiative is throwing the worlds out of balance, which goes "way beyond chaos", into "one hell of a fight." Giles doesn't seem to take the warning seriously, instead being somewhat envious of the Initiative. After spending the night reminiscing and drinking with Ethan, Giles wakes the next morning in the form of a Fyarl demon. After being forced to reverse the spell, Ethan is arrested by the Initiative, who apparently place him in military custody pending determination of his status, before sending him to a rehabilitation facility in Nevada. Afterwards, despite not trusting Ethan, Giles had Buffy to be cautious with the Initiative, eventually leading the Scooby Gang to discover its corruption and dangerous plans.
Ethan appears in the first arc of the series canonical comic book spin-off, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, titled "The Long Way Home" (2007). A projection of Ethan initially appears to Buffy in her "dreamspace" after she is attacked by the witch Amy Madison. Ethan acts as a guide and offers her cryptic messages about an approaching 'Twilight', and also helps Buffy find a fragment of Amy's own dreamspace to find a memory to use against her. At the conclusion of the arc, Buffy infiltrates the military facility where Amy is and while there attempts to break Ethan out of his prison cell. Buffy finds him dead, having been shot and apparently killed by a United States army general.
The character subsequently appears in the sequel series Angel & Faith, in the story arc "Death and Consequences" (2012-3). Exposition reveals that Ethan's corpse was possessed by Eyghon—who survived his original defeat in "The Dark Age"—upon his death and thereafter used to steal Giles' dead body prior to his burial. Eyghon possesses zombies of both Giles and Ethan and uses them as part of a plot to convert the Slayer population into his slaves as well.
Powers and abilities
Ethan's years of experience in the world of the supernatural made him a skilled sorcerer and chaos magician, adept at performing curses and transmogrification. He also had great knowledge of demonology and black magic as well as possessing fluency in Latin. The Mark of Eyghon granted him a psychic link of sorts to the demon, and gave him visions when the demon was in close proximity. He also claims to have "missed [his] calling as an artist" after tattooing Buffy with the Mark of Eyghon.
However, his fighting skills are mediocre, as Giles repeatedly beats him up with little-to-no effort; whenever Giles does this, Ethan doesn't even try to fight back.
Ethan has made 6 canonical Buffyverse appearances:
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- Ethan has appeared in 4 Buffy episodes as a guest
- Season 2 (1997, 1998) - "Halloween"; "The Dark Age"
- Season 3 (1998, 1999) - "Band Candy"
- Season 4 (1999, 2000) - "A New Man"
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight
- Ethan appeared in two issues:
- Kaveney, Roz (2004). Reading the Vampire Slayer: The Complete, Unofficial Guide to 'Buffy' and 'Angel'. Tauris Parke Paperbacks. p. xi.
- Attinello, Paul Gregory (2010). Music, Sound and Silence in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Ashgate. p. 145.
- Ginn, Sherry (2012). Power and Control in the Television Worlds of Joss Whedon. McFarland. p. 68.
- Papazian, Gretchen (2013). Game On, Hollywood!: Essays on the Intersection of Video Games and Cinema. McFarland. p. 30.