This month, the cast, crew, and colossal fan base all celebrate the 20th anniversary of the premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. For a TV series from the late ’90s that featured vampires, grasshopper monsters, and an endless supply of red leather, BtVS made a lasting impact. The series uses its platform to deliver messages of the challenges of growing up, the importance of inclusivity, and the complications of love. The series also featured some fantastically unforgettable bad guys. Let’s celebrate the anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer by reminiscing over these villains, one for every year since the first episode aired.
The shining, devastating beacon of season six, Sweet is the one-off villain who finally persuades Buffy to out the secret she’d been hiding since her resurrection. Sweet brought us the one and only musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and it was glorious. “Once More With Feeling” was the moment I realized this show could literally do anything.
The rat who seduced Willow to the dark side of magic isn’t much of a threat on her own, but her terrifying talents peak when she uses her magical influence to push Willow closer to the edge. I can’t help but wonder one thing though. How did Amy go from innocent cheerleader wannabe with an overbearing witchy mother to all-powerful black magic conjurer all while living her life as a rat?
18. The Trio
Behold, the most annoying characters to every grace a single episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer! The members of the trio aren’t so bad on their own, remember when Jonathan was feeling suicidal back in “Earshot?” Also, Andrew went on to become one of the most precious, nerdy side characters to ever kind of be in the Scooby Gang. So I guess Warren is what really made The Trio so awful, because he’s awful. Do any of us really blame Willow for exacting vengeance on him?
17. The Anointed One
The appearance of The Anointed One is the only time Buffy the Vampire Slayer brings on a villain in the form of a child. Brought to Sunnydale as a Christ-like Messiah figure to bring about the freedom of The Messiah. The Anointed One appears to overstay his welcome once The Master is killed, but Joss Whedon later revealed that the original intention was to evolve his role to the Big Bad of season two. The plan was foiled when everyone realized how quickly the actor was growing when the character needed to appear as someone who didn’t age.
16. Vampire Willow
Thanks to Anyanka, we’re graced with a glimpse of the type of villain Willow has the potential to embody with her vampire dystopian alter ego. She also gives a preview of Willow’s future romantic interests when good-Willow remarks that her vampire self “might be kinda gay”. Bless you, Vampire Willow, for introducing us to Willow Rosenberg in all of her patent leather, dominatrix glory.
Otherwise known as the uber-vamp. Turok-Han are basically the vampire version of the Mayor’s undiluted demonic form. We’ve never seen Buffy face such a severe ass kicking as she received at the hands of one single Turok-Han. Luckily, she bounces back to behead him in a thunderdome-style showdown. Too bad he’s not the only one and thousands more lie waiting in the Hellmouth for round two.
The most infamous vampire across all mediums of literature and entertainment, the Prince of Darkness took five seasons to finally make an appearance. The premiere of season five set the tone with the appearance of Dracula, bringing to light the growing space that existed between Buffy and Riley and reminding all of us of the draw of the darkness for the Chosen One.
Brilliantly aware, of insanely ignorant? Drusilla is an enigma in the Buffyverse, which makes her equal parts enchanting and dangerous. As Spike’s original love obsession, Drusilla whispered visions in his ear while he terrorized villages for her for centuries. The presence of Drusilla on screen is magnetic, and her ability to defeat her adversaries with barely the lift of a finger is worth a spot on this list.
12. Ethan Rayne
We didn’t weren’t blessed with nearly enough Ethan Rayne in the duration of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Ethan was always behind the most enjoyable romps of catastrophes to ever hit Sunnydale, such as the band candy bash, and the Halloween hurrah. Although his spells always cast more tricks than treats. his presence made for the fun-loving, one off episodes that boost the mood during an apocalypse. Also, who doesn’t ship Ethan and Giles? No? Just me?
An irrational fear of bunnies and penchant for coaxing scorned women into cursing the men who wronged them are the prominent traits of Anyanka. The Vengeance Demon is both charmingly clueless and scarily perceptive. Thanks to Anyanka, we got to witness a harsh reality where Buffy Summers never moved to Sunnydale, and an entire fraternity house get slaughtered by a giant, disgusting spider. Kudos Anyanka, you’re way more horrifying than the bunnies.
10. The First
By the time season seven rolled around, the exhaustion the cast felt regarding the continuation of the series was apparent. The presence of the entity that predates evil itself is the appropriate last hurrah that tied the show up in a much tidier bow than the Slayer’s death at the end of season five. It’s difficult to decide what monsters are left to tackle after a god unleashes hell on earth and Buffy has to sacrifice herself to save it, or the evolution of a main Scooby member to pure darkness. The only appropriate villain left to face is the source of every demon Buffy has ever battled. Not to mentioned thanks to The First we got to see some of our favorite faces again, even if they were just vessels for evil.
9. The Master
Who could every forget fruit punch mouth, the only vampire to ever actually kill the Slayer? The Master was the first Big Bad to ever grace our screen in a season-long arc, relishing the build-up of his release for The Harvest. The first season of Buffy wasn’t without its bumps and hiccups, but the rise and fall of The Master, along with his hilariously tempered quips, set the tone for the style of the series as a whole. The darkness and death, combined with the lighthearted delivery of societal issues are what help make Buffy the Vampire Slayer so incredibly unique. The Master also exemplified that self awareness that makes the viewing experience such a fun ride, literally saying at one point, “Oh good. The feeble banter portion of the fight.”
8. The Gentlemen
“Hush” the episode that earned Buffy the Vampire Slayer an Emmy nomination for Best Writing in a Drama Series, features only 17 minutes of dialogue due to the arrival of The Gentlemen. The tight knit group of monsters trap the voices of a town so the people can’t scream when their hearts are cut out. The episode was penned by Joss Whedon in response to critical commentary stating that the dialogue was the most exceptional part of the show. The Gentlemen are terrifyingly polite and ruthless always traveling in a pack with their tiny box ready for the next human heart. Not to mention that little jingle that goes along with their appearance, that song is the scariest nursery rhyme I’ve ever heard.
Nathan Fillion has always been one of Joss Whedon’s go-to actors, and nothing quite compares to his role in the titular, criminally short-lived cult favorite Firefly. However, his brief run as the Bible thumping, fire and brimstone preacher Caleb is nothing short of magnificent. Caleb is serving The First as his lord and savior, gleefully serving up what he believes is righteous deliverence to the Slayer, the rest of the Scoobies, and the Potentials. As a mere human, Caleb nearly bests Buffy, and he manages to take out one of Xander’s eyes, commenting on his ability to always see things, which is actually an insightful assessment of Xander’s intuitive presence. Caleb might have only terrorized Sunnydale for a couple of episodes, but he left more of a permanent mark on the group than nearly every other villain.
6. Mayor Wilkins
Here we have of the most destructive, yet also quite possibly the most likable villain of the series. Mayor Wilkins along with his germ phobia and incessant dad jokes is an endearing Big Bad to say the least. The juxtaposition of the Mayor’s status as an evil being and his paternal love for Faith is a fascinating character study in the complicated existence of both compassion and complete lack of empathy for the rest of the human race. Mayor Wilkins is also the biggest Big Bad, and the only time we ever see the demon in its true, untainted form. He’s pure, hygienic, polite, evil incarnate.
“This Year’s Girl” and “Who Are You” are by far two of the most standout episodes in an otherwise lackluster season filled with army men and Frankenstein villains. Season three is widely lauded as the best in the series largely because of the “bad” slayer’s dominated presence. Faith and Buffy have always been the most dynamic duo on screen in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, both embodying what the power and responsibility of being the Slayer can do to a person’s soul. Faith embodies reckless abandon and sex appeal, helping people for the high and the pleasure of the kill rather than the goodness of her heart. Buffy teeters on self destruction every time she crosses paths with Faith, and watching Slayer versus Slayer never gets old.
4. Dark Willow
Members of the Scooby Gang have come and gone, whether it be to die, turn evil, or simply relocate to Los Angeles and a new time slot. However, the core group of Buffy, Willow, and Xander always remained steadfast. Willow’s seduction by the addiction of magic coupled with the tragedy of the loss of her lover manage to create a crack in the foundation of the Scoobies that we had never witnessed before or since. The character transformation of Willow from shy, grade A nerd to cruel, spell casting murderess is the most drastic, yet organically believable, heartbreaking one in the series. The intimacy of Willow’s role as the Big Bad creates a conflict of emotions for both viewers and characters, challenging them to explore the grey areas of morality like no one but Joss Whedon can.
In many ways, love can be just as destructive as death, and that is never more evident than during season two of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Numerous think pieces have been penned over the allegorical symbolism of Angel’s transformation as a punishment to Buffy for premarital sex. But in its simplest form Angel’s curse is a representation of yin and yang. To surrender yourself completely to love and happiness leaves a person at their most vulnerable, exposed state, like an open wound waiting to either by healed or eviscerated. Angelus takes that love and and intimate knowledge of his partner and uses it like the sharpest dagger that has perverted, passionate patience. Love is both a hero and a villain’s greatest weakness, and Angelus serves as both throughout the series.
The dichotomy of Glory and Ben and the concept that the good side cannot survive without the evil one, and vice versa, is one that deepens and complicated a villain who otherwise would be simplistically evil. Glory is a god, an unbeatable force, and whereas countless villains across all forms of media play with the idea of appealing to a monster’s “humanity” as its weakness, Glory’s humanity is a literal kryptonite. Killing Ben is the only way Glory can truly be defeated, and in this sense, Buffy never truly beats her. Even with all of her darkness, Buffy cannot and will not kill an innocent life, leaving Giles to finish her/him off with one of the most raw, ruthless death scenes in the series. It’s a delicate thing, that pesky little humanity.
Spike’s spot at the top of this list isn’t necessarily because he’s the vampire of choice for Buffy to snuggle up with, but he is without a doubt the most layered, lasting villain the Whedonverse has ever created. Some might say I’m a bit biased because I met James Marsters at a Comic Con and he told me I was like a ray of sunshine, but that’s neither here nor there.
Spike doesn’t have a distinct line between his good and evil sides, in fact, there are no separate sides. The vampire named after his use of railroad spikes to kill his victims is composed of every quality that makes him sexy, sinister, sweet, and shockingly terrifying, and sometimes all in one episode. He didn’t kill two slayers and bed another by sheer dumb luck. The character also carries longevity as a relevant representative of an inner desire for both masochism and tenderness, dark and light.
Thank you Buffy, for beating down these badass villains and for saving the world, a lot.
Dear Buffy, Happy Anniversary! Sorry pet, didn’t get you flowers. Been busy talking to all the people who are celebrating you and Mr pointy! pic.twitter.com/Y7ytBus9xC
— James Marsters (@JamesMarstersOf) March 10, 2017