(All dates are extrapolations, intended as a reference, none are explicitly established in canon)
1964: Told by his father that he is to be a Watcher
1975: Leaves his studies at Oxford to go to London
1981: Willow is born (just to put things in perspective)
1996: Goes to Sunnydale
Father, no name supplied, was a Watcher, as was paternal grandmother (also nameless).
No mention of siblings, although, given that Giles doesn't talk about his family much, or at all, anything is possible.
Aside from a propensity to say "dear lord," Giles doesn't give much away in terms of religious inclinations.
* Curator of a British museum... or the British Museum
* Magic shop owner
In season one, Giles is a man very much out of his element. A reserved, middle-aged British man thrust into the midst of a California high school, in the charge of a teenaged California girl. He wears his tweed and stuffiness like armor against the unfamiliar culture around him, and falls back on his books and learning to make up for his bewilderment. Also, he follows his Watcher's Council Training, believes in it deeply. Constantly reminds Buffy of her destiny and insists she take it more seriously. The major character moment for Giles in season one is in Prophecy Girl, when, for the first time, he throws out all his training and attempts to go face the Master in Buffy's place. It's the first time he truly steps out of his role as Watcher, the first time he stands up to the Council, even if they don't realize it.
In season two, he begins to adjust to the new world he's in. He dates Jenny Calendar, and begins to relax a little bit, and to let the Scoobies in a little more, facing up to his dark past with Eyghon, and letting them see him as more of a human being than just a "grown up". It is the end of season two that is most important, however. Not just in terms of the season, but important for his character for the rest of the whole show. Jenny's murder and Giles's subsequent torture at the hands of Angelus and then Buffy running away are the catalyzing events for the massive character changes Giles undergoes over the next couple of years. In his youth, he'd been a bad boy, and then he'd lost a friend, and all of the warnings he'd ever been issued seemed to be proven accurate. So, he became the perfect Watcher. He devoted himself completely to his job, turned away from Jenny when duty demanded it, denied parts of himself in order to conform more perfectly to the ideal that he'd been raised to believe in, and it failed him. For the first time. "In my time as Watcher," he says, "I've buried a lot of people. But Jenny was the first I've loved."
The first sign of change in Giles is subtle: new glasses. Cooler glasses. A little later, he lets his dark side loose a little, threatens Snyder. He lets his personal feelings show when he discovers Buffy's been hiding Angel, and clearly shows Angel he neither trusts him nor likes him when he comes to him for help. And then comes the major event. Giles is forced to choose between his training and his own beliefs. And at first, he does try to remain the Council's idea of a "good" Watcher. But when the chips are down, he makes his choice, and pretty much renounces his "destiny," and chooses loyalty to Buffy and to himself over loyalty to the Council. This decision is the final key to the changes he goes through. After this point, he relaxes a great deal, wears more sweaters, and less tweed, begins to interact with the Scoobies on a more personal level. He lets his rebellious side show, and enjoys taunting Wesley just as much as Buffy does. Blowing up the library, while it was symbolic for all the characters, can definitely be seen as a symbol for Giles cutting the last of his ties to his old philosophy on life.
And then comes season four, the ultimate Giles-has-a-midlife-crises season. He's unemployed, his only friends in the area are college students who rarely come to see him... he's lonely, and he's bored, and he's bitter about it. So, he starts to do something about it. He attempts to make a more personal and equal connection with the Scoobies. He starts to work out more. He has an old girlfriend over for the weekend a couple of times (until she finds out monsters are real and runs away). He has a fling with his old boyfriend. He starts playing the guitar again. And singing! (oh, god, yes) Ahem. Anyway. So, season four is all about Giles finding himself again. Not the Watcher guy he was for years and years, but his real self. Who is, certainly, a lot like that Watcher guy. But with some major differences. Such as his dress code. And his guitar playing. And his sarcasm. So, he spends this whole season just... learning to be Giles again.
And, at the beginning of season five, he realizes that Giles... doesn't belong in Sunnydale. Buffy is self-sufficient, and he still isn't a true equal to the others in the Scooby Gang, or at least, feels that he isn't... or that he shouldn't be. He feels he has no "life" in Sunnydale, and no purpose. In England, presumably, he has friends his own age, and maybe opportunities for a good job. But... then he discovers Buffy does still need him, so he stays, because she is still his number one priority. And, since he's staying, he clearly makes the decision to establish a real life for himself in Sunnydale. He buys the shop, and settles in, with a renewed feeling of purpose. His relationships with the others continue to move more towards equality, as they grow closer to truly being adults. Contrast the scene in the Bronze in Family with the one in Wild At Heart, and it's obvious that he has become much more like simply one of the group. And then Buffy dies and all bets are off.
At the beginning of season six, all that sense of purpose Giles had finally been finding in season five is gone with Buffy, and he feels that he is wasting his life in Sunnydale. He leaves, to go home to England, trying to move on. When Buffy is brought back, he of course, returns, only to find that his presence is more harmful to her than helpful. While he is with her, he can't help but do everything she asks of him, and he realizes that by doing everything for her, he is making it impossible for her to begin to do things on her own again. It breaks his heart, but he leaves, for her own good. When he returns in Grave, though, and finds the group in shambles, he immediately feels that he's made a horrible mistake in leaving. His biggest mistake, really, was not helping stop Willow back when he had the chance, and he is literally willing to die to try to help her now. He doesn't, though, and finally, after Xander talks her down, does what he should have done awhile ago and takes her to train with the coven he knows in England.
So, then there's season seven. Giles is happily ensconced in England, with his books and whatnot. And Willow, of course. And then Willow leaves and bad stuff starts happening. Watchers and Potentials start dying left and right. And then, the whole Council blows up. Now, while Giles did declare his independence from them, the Watcher's Council is still the cornerstone of his existence. He agrees with their principles, if not their methods. And, more than likely, most of his lifelong friends, and possibly much of his family, work for the Council. Giles. Lost. A. Lot. Of. People. In season seven. The annoying punctuation is to ensure that you read that sentence and process it. Because, yes, he's vastly different in season seven. But there is a reason for it. Everything he believed in as eternal and unshakable has been torn apart. The worst has literally occurred. Giles is terrified and angry and traumatized in season seven, and, as such, has lost his patience, and his sense of humor. And while, granted, the show did not do the best job of really conveying the message, this apocalypse is the worst they've faced: the slayer line is being killed off, the watcher's council is gone, the enemy is incorporeal and indefeatable. So, Giles is under a lot of stress, and he does stupid things. It happens to the best of us. And, no, it doesn't excuse all of the OOCness of the season, but it does explain at least some of it.
Earring: Left ear, usually wears a small hoop earring when feeling rebellious. Or immature.
Eyghon Tattoo: Note that in The Dark Age, Giles's tattoo is large and located just above his elbow whereas in *all* other episodes it is present in, it is smaller and located just *below* his elbow. It is missing in at least one episode, Flooded, during the confrontation with Willow.
Relevant Episodes: Season Two: Halloween, The Dark Age*. Season Three: Band Candy. Season Four: A New Man*.
While it is not directly canon, the subtext suggests Giles and Ethan Rayne may have been involved in their youths. They worked magic together, lived the lives of petty outlaws and thugs. Like Willow and Tara, one of their strongest connections seems to be their mutual interest in magic, and they used it for small stuff, "for pleasure or gain." When Randall died, it seems they dealt with the event in vastly different ways. Giles returned to his former life, becoming, once again, a perfect student and Watcher, locking himself away behind rules and codes of conduct and the "right thing." Ethan, on the other hand, turned to Chaos. It was an irreconcilable difference, and things ended. Badly.
Similarities to Giles/Willow: The similarities between Willow and Ethan begin around seasons five and six. They are both powerful magic users, and both can be amoral in their use of magic. Willow plunges wholeheartedly into magic, using it to solve all her problems, ignoring consequences and risks. Giles sees this happening, but all he does to stop her is shout at her occasionally, and it accomplishes very little. He recognizes the path she's on, and it scares him, possibly because he's already lost one person to dark magic.
Relevant Episodes: Season One: I Robot, You Jane*, Prophecy Girl. Season Two: When She Was Bad, Some Assembly Required*, School Hard, Lie To Me, The Dark Age*, Ted*, Surprise, Innocence*, Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered, Passion*.
Giles and Jenny meet in season one, and immediately start in with the kind of ponytail-pulling love affair most common among third graders. To some, it is charming. To others, annoying. The apocalypse in Prophecy Girl brings them closer together, as shared near-death experiences often do. They are apart for the summer between seasons one and two, and meet up again in season two, happy to see each other. Their first date is to a football game in Some Assembly Required, and everything is hunky dory between them (except those dates to see monster trucks...) until The Dark Age, when Giles's past catches up to him in an incredibly literal sort of way, and Jenny is possessed by a demon he summoned. She doesn't take this well, and avoids him until she goes to apologize and (accidentally...) shoots him with a crossbow in Ted. Again, things go well between them... until Jenny reveals in Innocence that she is actually a gypsy spy, which Buffy reacts badly to. Buffy shuts Jenny out and Giles, whose first loyalty is to his Slayer, must do the same. In Passion, Buffy finally relents, and tells Jenny that Giles is missing her, essentially giving them her blessing. Of course, Joss being Joss, Jenny then dies, which throws a serious monkey wrench into future romantic bliss for Jenny and Giles. Giles does, however, mourn Jenny deeply for the rest of the season, enough that he believes without question that the ghost haunting the school in I Only Have Eyes For You is her spirit, and then falls for Drusilla's illusion of Jenny in Becoming.
Similarities to Giles/Willow: If Jenny were any more like Willow, she'd have to be played by Alyson Hannigan. She chirpy, she's funny, she's majorly devoted to technology and witchcraft, even if she's not a practicing witch. Ok, yes, she is vastly more experienced in sex and life type things than Willow is, at least in season two, but in terms of personality, there are undeniable similarities.
Relevant Episodes: Season Four: The Freshman*, Hush*, Restless
Giles and Olivia are old friends, with a relationship dating back, most likely, to Giles's early twenties, as Olivia calls him "Ripper," which is a nickname that he probably didn't go by after returning to Oxford. It would seem that Olivia knew Giles at around the same time he was involved with the Eyghon group, although she wasn't a part of it, as she didn't realize until Hush that all the monsters and magic that "Ripper" talked about weren't just him making up ghost stories. Giles and Olivia give off a certain vibe of friends-with-benefits, although there are hints that it may run a bit deeper than that at the end of Hush. Olivia (in a rather interesting parallel to Jenny in Dark Age) is frightened off by the truth of the darkness of Giles's world in Hush, and he is clearly saddened as he realizes that he is going to lose her. She makes an interesting appearance in Giles's dream sequence in Restless representing, possibly, what Giles sees as the life he never had, with a wife and children. She's never seen again in person, however, after Hush.
Similarities to Giles/Willow: None, really, except that Olivia, like Jenny, does appear to be younger than Giles.
Much as we all like to believe that Giles is a kick-ass sorcerer, the evidence in canon for him being anything beyond an average spell caster is slim. Even in his dark magic youth, Giles says that the spells he did were "small stuff." The biggest thing he did was summon Eyghon, and that was with the help of the group, or at least, Ethan, who is clearly and canonically a very powerful sorcerer. Also, when Giles faces Willow in Grave, he is using borrowed power from an entire coven of witches in addition to his own, and still can't overcome Willow for long.
All of the spells he does, except for those in Grave, are very ritualistic, with books and candles and symbols and such. Since even Xander was once able to set a book on fire using just a couple of words in Latin, it would seem that the magical artifacts have a power all their own, which most anyone, using the right rituals, could probably call on.
Giles's relationship with magic, otherwise, however, does seem similar to Willow's in some ways. In his youth, he used it carelessly and to his advantage. He refers to possession by Eyghon as "an incredible high." In the present, he is cautious about magic. It could even be that, until he became Buffy's Watcher, he'd been avoiding magic, since it's easy to retcon his line in Witch about the spell being his "first casting," which is clearly untrue, to being his "first casting... in a long time."
Ripper is Giles's nickname. It is NOT a separate personality. Unless you're writing a Vampire!Giles story in which case an argument could be made. On the show, three people call Giles "Ripper": Ethan Rayne, Joyce, and Olivia. Ethan throws the name in Giles's face like an insult more often than not. Joyce called him by the name during Band Candy, when they were teenagers, but never again. Olivia seemed to be half-joking when she called him Ripper in The Freshman.
The origins of the name are unknown, but there's always room for speculation. Anthony Stewart Head, for example, likes to joke that the name refers to flatulence. There's also the obvious similarities between Rupert and Ripper, which suggest that perhaps it was a name of his own making or a friend's, in a desperate attempt to make something cooler out of "Rupert." Coming at it from a darker angle, it could be a nickname earned through violence. All we get on the origin of the name in canon is Giles saying "Wouldn't you like to know" when asked by Joyce where the name came from in Band Candy. Also, Cordelia asks in Dark Age why Ethan is calling Giles "Ripper," and then when Giles proceeds to attack Ethan, she says, "oh."
Giles does have moments on the show when he lets his dark side out to play, and, yes, even a writer or two for the show itself has referred to these as "Ripper moments." But again, this isn't a case of multiple personalities. It is simply a man who is usually very self-controlled, but who also, like anyone, has other aspects to his personality, including a darker, violent streak. Good examples of this are common in canon, such as vengefully attacking Angelus in Passion, threatening Snyder in Dead Man's Party, and running the Mayor through with a fencing foil in Graduation Day (ow).
* sings and plays the guitar, and seemed to have had a band at some point during his younger years.
* likes to cook.
* likes mushy peas, jelly donuts, and moon pies.
* used to smoke (and did in Band Candy)
* drinks scotch. Often.
* wanted to be a grocer or a fighter pilot when he was ten (and kind of did become a grocer of sorts with the Magic Box)
* Friends who summoned Eyghon: Randall (no known last name), Thomas Sutcliffe, Philip Henry, Diedre Page, and of course, Ethan Rayne
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