A Bloody Good Time 02.21.13: Top 10 Buffyverse Characters
Opening Logo courtesy of Benjamin J. Colón (Soul Exodus)
Welcome to A Bloody Good Time.
Close to this time last year, I ranked the top ten episodes of both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. They actually went over quite well, considering how passionate Buffy and Joss Whedon fans tend to be.
I feel like they may not be as forgiving this week, as there’s a lot of beloved characters over the course of the show. I might have been able to pull off a top twenty this time, but that would just be a lazy excuse to show love to all of the majors without offending anyone. Instead, I’m going to post my personal ten favorites. There may be some shocking inclusions and there may be some glaring omissions. If you have your own choices, please feel free to share them. There’s not much else to say, so let’s set the mood with some music, and countdown the Top Ten Buffyverse Characters!
#10: Mayor Richard Wilkins III (Harry Groener)
Confession time: The Mayor is my favorite pure villain in the entire Buffyverse. Angelus is forced within Angel and both Spike and Faith were redeemed so they do not count. The Mayor is just absolute pure evil and at the same time he’s also really funny. He also has a soft spot for Faith, which makes him more vulnerable and empathetic. At no point do we want him to win, but the moments he and Faith share together make their arc in season three particularly interesting.
A lot of villains come back in cameos over the course of the series, most notably at the start of season seven when they all appear before Spike. There’s another moment I was more excited for when The First appears as the Mayor to Faith and it’s like old times. He’s the perfect example of a character you hate to love. He wants to rule the world and kill all your heroes, sure, but he’s so gosh-darned upbeat about it. He’s not dull like Adam and he’s not one-dimensional like The Master. He’s a fleshed out big bad that made every moment he was on screen a delight to watch.
#9: Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head)
Giles doesn’t really get a chance to shine until season two. Until then, he’s just the stuffy British guy that orders Buffy around, but really has a heart of gold, which is common stereotype in TV and movies. Then season two came along and we found out he used to be a rotten guy with the nickname of Ripper. Then Jenny Calendar is killed and he attacks Angelus, the untouchable evil force, with a flaming baseball bat. Giles, of all people, does the most damage to Angelus of the whole season to that point.
From then on it was just a matter of when we would get to see Giles do his thing again. He’s still the stuffy British guy, but he can still hold his own. He also loosens up over the course of the series and becomes not just a mentor but a member of the Buffy family. He’s a good character because he sheds what could have been a very typical role and becomes something more.
#8: Faith Lehane (Eliza Dushku)
Of course you can’t talk about the Mayor (and I didn’t) without bringing up Faith. Faith was already on a bad road before she joined up with season three’s villain, but he definitely didn’t help matters. Joss Whedon has said in the past that Faith is what Buffy could have been without the right people in her life. She lets the power go to her head and it corrupts her, causing her to kill innocents and alienate everyone around her. When she leaves the Buffy series for good (until a return in season seven), those fans still saw her as a villain with some issues.
It was only when she appeared on Angel that she got her redemption and was put back on the road to being a force of good. She hates herself for what she’s become and sees a common bond in Angel that allows her to get the help she needs. This leads to season four when she returns to help restore Angel’s soul as a sort of return favor. I liked Faith because she’s kind of a badass, but she’s flawed and that usually makes the best characters.
#7: Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar)
Here is where everyone calls for my head. Buffy is not my favorite character of the Buffyverse and she’s not even in my top five. I’ll tell you why right now. Due to the nature of the show and her powers, she’s kind of a Mary Sue at times. It’s her show, so of course she’s going to save the day. If she dies, of course she’s going to get brought back. She overcomes every obstacle and while she has trouble at times, she gets through it and eventually wins.
That’s why she’s not higher than this, but I do still like her. I like Sarah Michelle Gellar’s performance as the character. I like the fact that she often has a lot of snarky lines for any situation. She also experiences a lot of growth that a lesser series wouldn’t give her. She is very powerful, but she also learns what that power means and how she should best use it. She goes through some really bad times and it changes her into a more mature individual. While at times her character can get on my nerves, she’s still a good character and that’s why she makes the list. Not only that, but one of the shows was named after her. It seems really stupid to not include her at all.
#6: Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan)
In a way, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is just as much about Willow as it is Buffy. Willow starts out completely helpless, begins to use her computer skills to her advantage, gains power as a witch, loses control of that power and then eventually regains control and masters it. Willow ranks over Buffy because I think she has more growth and changes as a character. Even as she gains this phenomenal power I think Willow is easier to relate to than most characters. There’s also of course personal preference.
Unlike some people, I actually quite enjoy season six of Buffy, because it’s devoted to Willow. She becomes addicted to her magic, loses everything and then loses herself before the one true thing in her life is able to talk her down through the power of love. Okay, it’s slightly cheese, but par for the course on a show like this. It’s also a very powerful moment on the show and one that makes up for whatever flaws people claim the last two season of the show have.
#5: Spike (James Marsters)
The rest of this list skews towards Angel a bit, so I’m warning you now. I prefer Buffy as a show but I prefer Angel‘s characters overall. Spike spent most of his time on Buffy where he went from a cool villain to comic relief to flawed hero. He’s run the gamut of character types in the entire show and is one of the most beloved of everyone. There are some people who probably think he should be #1. I like the next four more, but I wouldn’t argue with you too much on that.
It’s not the fact that he looks like Billy Idol (which Idol actually stole from him, for the record) and speaks with an accent. He’s cool because of his devil-may-care attitude and the fact that every time he gets knocked down he gets back up. Even when he doesn’t have a soul he seeks redemption. At first its for Buffy but later I think its for himself. Angel had to have his soul forced on him, Spike sought one out. I think that speaks volumes for this character.
#4: Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon)
Xander could have easily been nothing more than comic relief. In fact, for the first season that is all he really was. A comedic character who had the hots for Buffy. As the show progressed he grew into more of the heart of the team. He never gets any flashy powers and he’s more likely to get beaten up than save the day. But he’s always willing to fight and help out in any way we can. Especially when almost everyone else has a set of skills except for him, he takes pride in being normal and bringing some humanity to the group.
There’s never really any big stories that center around Xander outside of his relationship with Anya. He’s the very definition of supporting character. I think that’s why he works so well. He never gets to dominate the show or wear out his welcome. Not that he could, because he’s incredibly funny and provides some of the most entertaining moments of the show. Being normal also gives him perspective, and makes him the one who sees everything. This of course leads to a horrifying moment in season 7, but we’ll ignore that.
#3: Wesley Wyndham-Price (Alexis Denisof)
A common theme with many of these characters is growth and change. Wesley goes through a lot of change in this show, so much so that he’s almost unrecognizable in Angel season five, compared to when he first debuted in Buffy season three. When he arrived, he was a dorky replacement watcher that I didn’t even like all that much. In fact I wouldn’t have minded if he never showed up again.
But then he did show up again on Angel and grew into a complete badass who is incredibly smart and capable. The best part about this is that it doesn’t happen spontaneously. He’s still very dorky when he starts out on Angel and it takes time for him to become better at his job and eventually get so good that he could probably take out everyone else on the team if he really wanted to. The only downside to this is that he became more and more of a sad individual as the series continued.
#2: Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter)
In my opinion, no character had more growth over the course of both Buffy shows than Cordelia. When she first showed up she was vapid, shallow and only out for herself. On Buffy, she does grow into a more friendly person to the Scooby gang, but is more or less the same only nicer. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, considering she was always a supporting character and if she was going to become say, a main character, she’d need more development.
That’s what happens on Angel. She becomes a main character and by actually getting a purpose (her visions) and a stable life, she begins to grow into a strong woman. If we’re talking Buffyverse relationships, I actually prefer Cordelia/Angel to Buffy/Angel because I think the relationship is earned more. The latter relationship is because Angel was obsessed with Buffy and it grew from there. Angel and Cordelia was mostly unrequited and grew over time as they went from friends to more. It’s a relationship that never would have worked on Buffy because Cordelia wasn’t three dimensional yet.
#1: Angel (David Boreanaz)
He had three seasons of Buffy and then five on his own show, making him one of the characters who appeared in the most episodes overall. I like Angel the best because he’s a flawed hero, and I’m a sucker for that sort of thing. Angel is a vampire with a soul, a concept that was copied later for Spike but it was originated here. He also has several different skills over the course of the show that make him the best. He can be funny when required, kick butt when necessary and have strong dramatic moments when needed.
Another reason he’s my favorite is because of when he turns into Angelus, who is my choice for the best villain of the series. Angelus is absolutely evil, and if he never had a soul he probably couldn’t be stopped. He has no boundaries and takes complete joy in hurting and killing others. That’s what makes his moments so fun to watch, because he’s the type of villain you love to hate. It’s awesome watching David Boreanaz have fun in the role, but as a fan you want that soul back in him so he can go back to being Angel. Two sides of the same character and both are really great to watch. He’s two characters in one!
That’s it for me. Leave some comments here on or my Twitter. Next week I continue with the top ten lists (culminating in a big one in March, more on that later) with a look at the top ten horror anthology TV shows.
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