Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Helpless

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Season 3, Episode 12
Airdate January 19, 1999
Production Number 3ABB12
Written by David Fury
Directed by James A. Contner
← 3x11
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The Zeppo
Buffy the Vampire SlayerSeason Three

Helpless is the twelfth episode of the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the forty-sixth episode overall.

Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy Summers), Nicholas Brendon (Xander Harris), Alyson Hannigan (Willow Rosenberg), Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia Chase), David Boreanaz (Angel), Seth Green (Oz)

and Anthony Stewart Head (Giles)

Guest Starring: Kristine Sutherland (Joyce Summers), Jeff Kober (Zackary Kralik), Harris Yulin (Quentin Travers)

Co-Starring: Dominic Keating (Blair), David Haydn-Jones (Hobson), Nick Cornish (Guy), Don Dowe (Construction Worker)


Plot Overview

As Buffy prepares to turn 18, she finds herself drained of her Slayer powers. What she doesn't know is that she is being set up for a dangerous test by the Watchers Council, as administered to the few Slayers who reach such an age. To make matters worse, the Council insists on going through with the test despite the circumstances having gotten out of control.


Monster of the Week

The vampire Buffy is meant to face is Zackary Kralik, a serial killer who was committed an asylum for the criminally insane before being turned into a vampire during his stint there. Giles isn't given a chance to explain the rest of Kralik's story, although it is clear that he suffers from some kind of mental promlem, likely schizophrenia, which requires pills to dilute the pain.

Body Count

# Whom By Whom How Where
1 Vampire Buffy Staked Playground
2 Blair Kralik Vamped House
3 Hobson Kralik Bitten House
4 Kralik Buffy Burned Inside Out House
5 Blair Giles Staked House


Arc Advancement


  • Watchers Council: When the Slayer turns 18, she is put through a coming-of-age ritual that dates back centuries. After removing her powers, effectively leaving her helpless, she is thrust into a closed space with a vampire to fend for her own. Giles calls the exercise archaic and a needless threat to the slayer's life. Regardless, he follows along with the plan and injects Buffy regularly with muscle relaxant and an adrenaline suppressor. Quentin Travers, the head of the Council, makes his first appearance as the administrator of the test.


  • Giles: Giles is fired from his position as watcher by Quentin Travers because Travers believes that he has become too fatherly to Buffy. His open contempt for the Council's ways and defiance also accounted for his firing.


  • 2x13 - Surprise (1): On Buffy's 17th birthday, she caught a couple of vampires trying to steal a locked wooden box. The box contained the arm of The Judge, a demon that Spike and Drusilla attempted to rebuild, which sprang to life and tried to strangle Buffy when she got too close to it.
Angel: Then why'd you seem more excited last year when you got a severed arm in a box?
  • 2x22 - Becoming (2): Angel was brought to Sunnydale by Whistler, the demon who came across him eating rats in New York City alleys. He didn't fully commit to fighting the good fight until he saw Buffy outside of school meeting her first Watcher and, later, killing her first vampire.
Angel: I saw you before you became the Slayer.


The Show

Behind the Scenes

  • Working Title: This episode was produced under the working title "18" because it's about Buffy's 18th birthday.
  • International: Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been dubbed into many different languages and the title translated for each different international version. Some international translations of this episode's title are:
    • French: "Sans défense" ("Helpless")
    • Italian: "Compleanno di terrore" ("Birthday of Terror")
    • German: "Reifeprüfung" ("Final Examination")
    • Japanese: "無力なバフィー" ("Muryoku na Bafī" - "Helpless Buffy")
    • Spanish: "Indefensa" ("Helpless")

Allusions and References

  • Kryptonite: Kryptonite is a mineral closely tied to the comic book character Superman. Originally introduced in the Superman radio serial, Kryptonite is created from the remains of Superman's home planet of Krypton and has adverse effects to Kryptonians. As Xander says, there is a variety colors which have a variety of different effects (which Oz and Xander accurately run though). The versions which aren't mention include white (deadly to plants) and blue (deadly to Bizarro Kryptonians).
Xander: You're assuming I meant the green kryptonite.

Memorable Moments


  • Buffy: Actually, I do have a date. Older man. Very handsome. Likes it when I call him daddy.
Angel: Your father. It is your father, right?
  • Buffy: If I was at full Slayer power, I'd be punning right about now.
  • Quentin Travers: You think the test was unfair?
Buffy: I think you better leave town before I get my strength back.
Quentin Travers: We're not in the business of fair, Miss Summers. We're fighting a war.
Giles: You're waging a war. She's fighting it. There is a difference.