I’ve been thinking about the scene in the Gift where Giles kills Ben. I find it is often overlooked, or not discussed enough, perhaps this is because the next scene is Buffys death and people are too busy discussing that to think too much about what Giles did, but, as a Giles fan I think it’s time I got this tl;dr exposition out of my system.
At the start he kneels beside Ben and asks, almost tenderly, if he can move. He is analysing the situation, and if you watch closely enough, Bens answer that he needs a minute breaks Giles a little, he no longer looks at Ben until he puts on his glasses. This is because Giles is the kind of man who, like Mal Reynolds in Firefly, believes that you should be on an equal or lower footing as someone if you are to kill them, but in that moment he realises he will have to break this cardinal rule to do what he is there for. To save Buffy, to save the world, he must murder a human, but he had already come to terms with that, I think, but the idea of killing someone that can’t fight back, that breaks him inside, more than anyone could imagine.
Then he puts on his glasses and looks into Bens eyes. His way of saying: ‘this is me, this isn’t Ripper, this is Giles and I am doing this’. They symbolically and literally enable him to see what he is doing, to see his actions and accept them, because he needs to accept this with open arms or it will tear him apart. They also symbolise wisdom and intelligence and his putting them on shows the perverse rightness in what he is about to do. If Ben lives, so too does Glory, and he reassures himself of this, speaking about it out loud, he may seem perfectly calm at first glance but this is him psyching himself up to do this. Giles may be many things, but a killer is not one of them, until this moment. He has obviously tortured himself about the death of Randall, blamed himself for it, even, but he knew, in his heart that it wasn’t him, that he wasn’t a murderer, but in this moment, with this action, he will become one, he will become a murderer, and he is terrified of what that may mean for him.
His fast arm movement shows that he is, under the façade, still unsure and so he moves, before he can stop himself. His description of himself as not being a hero shows that he knows that no matter what he does after this, he can never take it back, he can never be truly ‘good’, in his own eyes at least. But despite the uncertainty he keeps his eyes fixed on Ben now, his glasses are on, he has disassociated himself from the ‘heroes’ he walks with and this is all his own action. Perhaps he doesn’t want Buffy to blame herself for a death that was not her fault like he did with Randall. The way he kills Ben is very personal too, he uses his hand to suffocate him. He will literally feel Bens last breath, he is physically stopping Bens life. There is no intermediary, this is Giles, this is his action, this is his decision and he is accepting it.
This is very heroic, he is destroying himself to save the world, and, in a large part, to save Buffy. If Glory returned she would go after Buffy, Giles knows this and I am sure a large part of his decision was made for Buffys sake. This makes this scene truly depressing as the next time we see him in this episode Buffy is dead. He killed a man and a large part of himself for Buffy and she is dead, I have no idea how he dealt with the double blow, but he did.
His actions in this scene are shocking, but if you think carefully, they are very Giles. He puts himself last, he knows that Ben must die, he knows that killing someone destroys you inside and so he does it himself, to save anyone else from having to bear that burden. He does it as himself too, not as Ripper, he accepts his actions as he encourages everyone else to do throughout the season.
This scene truly does show us the heart of Rupert Giles and the scene after, well, that shows us it breaking.
This is excellent and I agree with everything you’ve said. I just wanted to add that although Giles’ heroism is less traditional and clear-cut than Buffy’s sacrifice of her own life, it is none the less comparable.
Giles’ decision, although it does not end his life, would irrevocably alter how he perceives himself, never before having intentionally taken the life of an innocent, (in what some would describe as cold blood). In return he receives not the eternal glory of the martyr, but a sullied conscience which he must bear alone for the rest of his life.
I’m not saying his heroism was greater by any means than that of Buffy in this episode, but it is certainly equally worthy, in addition to its being less celebrated.
Don't jump to conclusions.
I didn't jump, I took a tiny step and there conclusions were.