Buffy the Vampire Slayer has to be considered one of the greatest television series of all time. Ground-breaking and ingenuous, Joss Whedon’s Buffy-verse is filled with deeply flawed heroes, identifiable victims and wonderfully sympathetic villains. It was clear when William the Bloody debuted in the shows second season that he would eventually play a much larger role than mere “big bad of the year”. ‘Big bad’ though he was, Spike offered much humour and humanising moments derived through sublime writing and performances from James Marsters. Spike’s role in the Buffy-verse changed dramatically when our heroines forbidden love turned evil, unleashing Angelus onto an already vulnerable Sunnydale populace. One of his greatest quotes came during the truce he and Buffy forged in Becoming Part 2 (Season two finale).
“We like to talk big… vampires do. “I’m going to destroy the world.” That’s just tough-guy talk. Strutting around with your friends over a pint of blood. The truth is, I like this world. You’ve got…dog racing, Manchester united. And you’ve got people. Billions of people walking around like Happy Meals with legs. It’s all right here. But then someone comes along with a vision. With a real… passion for destruction. Angel could pull it off. Good-bye, Piccadilly. Farewell, Leicester-bloody-Square”
Spikes humanising trait, what made him so appealing to fans, was how his self-identity was created entirely by his relationships with the women in his life. From pulling his mother’s apron strings to her disturbing attempt at fulfilling his oedipal complex (after he turned her into a vampire) to Drusilla’s fractured mind guiding him in his vampirical infancy. Spike’s vulnerability to the women in his life (and un-life) reveal the ‘big bad’ to be a hopeless romantic, like he tells the group on a misguided return to the Hellmouth in season three; he may be loves bitch, but at least he’s man enough to admit it.
Season three introduced one of the quirkiest, most delightfully well-mannered ‘big bad’ ever to grace a TV set: Mayor Richard Wilkins III. The germ-phobic villain was as politely spoken as he was deviously brilliant. Another ‘big bad’ with as many redeeming qualities as the Scoobies had flaws. The Mayor’s relationship with the renegade Slayer, Faith, was forged through a fascinating father-daughter dynamic. At first it appeared disingenuous, that he may be manipulating Faith to reach his goals. However, the only time in which Wilkins loses his temper, sacrificing his calm and collected façade, was when Faith was comatose following her fight with Buffy. The Mayors rage made it crystal clear that his love for the human-killing Vampire Slayer was not only real, but his most profound relationship over the last century since the natural death of his beloved wife. Once more, Whedon creates a villain who’s redeeming qualities are found in his relationships with the women in his life.
Glory, what a bizarre and demented nemesis to Buffy she was in Season Five. Evicted from her own hell dimension the superficial, intelligence lacking style queen had one goal: to return home. Surrounded by nitwits even more stupid than herself, Glory stumbled across season five leaving chaos and tragedy in her wake. Glory was responsible for as much inadvertent damage to the Scoobies as she was directly. Joy’s tragic death (the music free episode of mourning being one of the most powerful in the entire series) could be attributed to the false memories the monks implanted in her mind, being one I have discussed to extraordinary lengths with fellow Whedonites over the years.
Glory’s brilliance was her self-centred, singular ambition that was as unrelenting as Spike’s crush on Buffy. Her witty dialogue and extreme melodramatic outbursts were a joy to watch and created a sense of total unpredictability. Sadly, Glory’s weakness was delivered in a disappointing manner. Her body-share with human Ben could have been fascinatingly complex and emotive but her male counterpart was more an irritation along the way to Buffy’s second death. A subjective comment certainly, but Ben was never a character that felt fully developed and one I was delighted to see killed off by a chillingly cool Giles.
During seven seasons of Buffy and five of Angel, Whedon created a Big Bad for every fan. Each being flawed, vulnerable, identifiable and startlingly unpredictable. His character aware writing enabled him to turn many of them into allies of the Scoobies or hero’s through organic, natural character development. Having been so viciously attacked following Age of Ultron, many of us Whedonites are eagerly awaiting his Batgirl movie. For me personally, as this post suggests, I am more excited about which villain he chooses to face off against Babs, and how he will write them. The dynamics Whedon could bring to the Gordon siblings would make for an incredible movie.