Buffy countdown pt. III – favorite villains
Trying to put this list together a while back, I realized a certain design flaw. The real villain of Buffy, as producers have told us, was Life. The bad things our heroes fought were merely a sideshow in the journey to learn the big lessons of the series.
On the other hand, the villains on Buffy were really cool. After Season One’s generic vampire The Master was vanquished, Buffy et al encountered foes who took more out of them, dug into their emotions, and saddled them with loss. Frequently, they were given hilarious dialogue. I have 8 favorites in the rogues gallery.
8. The Master
Oh, come on, respect where it’s due. He did kill the heroine in the first season. And she obviously never quite recovered from it.
“Where are your jibes now?”
7. Quentin Travers and The Watchers Council
This was a good twist, provided by a freelance writer, no less (David Fury, who went on to produce the show). The Council that creates Slayers is corrupt and sadistic. Buffy can only do her job when she breaks from tradition – and in the series’ finale, she can only save the world when she destroys what they created. That was fun.
Everybody loved Spike as a villain. I liked him as a sad sack love interest, too, and part of that was thanks to his general reprehensibility. He’s essentially a scared, lovesick pansy who can only get through the day by doing terrible things to people. And he is very, very funny.
“Oh, please! If every vampire who said he was at the crucifixion was actually there, it would have been like Woodstock.”
There’s an Antichrist element I like about Glory. Buffy’s interesting because she’s a cute, punny girl who happens to be sworn to protect humankind. And Glory is a cute, silly girl who happens to be a God from Hell intent on destroying the world. That in itself is cool. Glory earns bonus points for irrevocably changing the heroine’s life, by forcing mystics to give her a younger sister (this is always the plot that sounds silliest when you explain it), and then by finding new and exciting ways to exploit her vulnerabilities.
“I’m crazy? Honey, I’m the original one-eyed chicklet in the Kingdom of the Blind. ‘Cuz at least I admit the world makes me nuts.”
I think if fans were more at peace with themselves, they’d admit that Willow’s villainy made perfect sense. Without going into too much detail – Willow was the character most fans could identify with. A fantasy fan is an outcast. He or she spends some time thinking about how unfair his lot is, and how he’d punish the people who make fun of him if only he had some kind of power to do it. Well, Willow got power. Making her go rogue was the only artistic decision that made sense. The fact that it hurt so much? That’s proof that the writers were doing their job.
“Buffy, you hate it here as much as I do. I’m just more honest about it.”
3. The Mayor
He had a chintzy evil scheme, actually – to transmute into a gigantic demonic snake. I didn’t really appreciate him until it was revealed that he founded Sunnydale himself, more than a hundred years before the show began, expressly for the purpose of empowering himself and feeding demons.
“That’s one spunky little girl you’ve raised. I’m gonna eat her.”
2. Warren Mears
I’m kind of alone on this one, but think about it – Warren was more or less created by Buffy. If she hadn’t humiliated him when his first plans went awry, he wouldn’t bothered trying to outwit her. He nearly killed her, and he succeeded in killing Tara (the only villain apart from Angel who killed a cast member). He not only turned Willow into a villain – he wrecked her life, and her friends’ lives, and will haunt her forever as a result. In a sense that only makes sense in a list of villains, that’s kickass.
“Are you done yet? Or can we talk some more about our feelings?”
When my friend CJ and I discussed Buffy a few days ago, we agreed that the show didn’t really reach greatness in the first season. It took more than a year for the themes to build. And it took time for fans to warm to Angel, the studly, mopey vampire who absolutely loved our heroine. They couldn’t have done less to make it really hurt when, in the middle the second season, Angel lost his soul and became devoted to killing Buffy’s friends and destroying the world. That introduced about 10,000 character conflicts, moral questions and great issues into what was a fun, silly show. And you really, really wanted him to die. That’s the mark of grade-A villainy.
“Love you, too. I’ll call you.”