With Buffy the Vampire Slayer turning 20, do you feel old yet? While some us may soon be trading in our fangs for dentures, it seems like only yesterday that we met the feisty Chosen One from L.A. Dusting off your stake and your DVDs, Buffy is always worth a revisit, even two decades later. We laugh, we cry, we screw up our faces to look like a vampire, while there is something quintessentially wholesome about the town built on the Hellmouth. Even as the show moved past the crumbling remains of Sunnydale High and into university, Buffy entered her adult years, faced with more love, more loss, and yes, more Angel.
David Boreanaz may have splintered off into his own show (taking several Buffy alumni with him), but it offered something very different from the cheerful cheerleaders and hijinx of the main show. Everyone had their favorite character, whether it be the timid Willow, the goofy Xander, stoic Giles, or the titular Buffy. However, outside the main Scooby Gang, who are the unsung heroes (and villains) of Sunnydale?
Here are the 15 Most Underrated Buffy The Vampire Slayer Characters.
If you can forgive the accent, Kendra Young was a welcome addition to Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s second season. Believed to be an assassin from the Order of Taraka, it was later revealed that Kendra was another slayer, activated after Buffy’s (brief) death at the end of Season 1. As the model slayer, Kendra was a no-nonsense badass who harkened back to Buffy’s loner days as suspected school arsonist. Sadly, Kendra was killed after just a year as the Slayer, which doesn’t look good on anyone’s CV.
Bianca Lawson had originally auditioned for the part of Cordelia Chase, but it is hard to imagine her now as anyone other than fiery Kendra, who was comic foil for Buffy. Having her throat slit by Drusilla, Kendra’s was a death that would affect Buffy at a time when she had just started to warm to her replacement. Buffy kept Kendra’s stake, Mr. Pointy, and had it bronzed in her memory.
14. Robin Wood
As a closet vampire hunter, Principal Robin Wood set hearts a-flutter from his arrival at the newly rebuilt Sunnydale High, wel– until he drove a stake into them. He was seeking vengeance on Spike, who stole his dead mother’s jacket as a trophy. It was Wood’s turn from just another principal into unofficial vampire hunter that gave him more depth than your standard classroom character. In particular, the flashback episode to the swinging ‘70s was a welcome break from the modern gore of Sunnydale and gave Wood a human side with the loss of his mother.
Principal soon made eyes at Buffy, offering her the position of guidance counselor and inviting her on a date… to a vampire ambush. It was clear that Wood had ulterior motives for being in town. Perhaps it was the fact that he built his office directly above the Hellmouth that caused the Scooby Gang and the audience to question which side he was on. All turned out well in the end, with Robin obviously being one of the good guys and knocking boots with Faith Lehane.
Having possibly the best name in the Buffyverse, Glorificus was by played with aplomb by Clare Kramer. Her acting may have been OOT, but Kramer gave us the perfect mad queen performance. Glory ruled with an iron fist, and it is hard not to respect a demon that has their own minions and can be so demanding that her temper tantrum causes a building to collapse. And no one can forget classic Gloryisms like: “I need shoes, I need dresses, I need to rule the world.”
Glory essentially wanted Hell to reign on Earth, but needed to get back to her own dimension to do so, using “The Key.” It took several spells, a troll hammer, a wrecking ball, and the Buffybot to even weaken her, but Glory was eventually defeated by Giles smothering a young man to death – go figure.
In terms of pure comedy gold, Glory was effectively a psychotic version of Cordelia Chase. Joss Whedon apparently wanted a character similar to the Joker from Batman, and Glory was a superb pantomime villain, although, there is no denying that the minions needed their own Oompa-Loompa song every time they slid onto our screens.
12. Mayor Wilkins
Dubbed the evil Ned Flanders, Mayor Richard Wilkins took his villainy to a soap operatic level of camp and madness. As the primary villain of the third season, Wilkins seemed a little too knowledgeable about Sunnydale’s evil goings on, but was there really evil behind that family man persona?
Harry Groener was cast due to his ability to portray a quintessentially corrupt American politician, who was so greasy, he nearly slipped out of our hands, but also somehow paternal. In an office packed with shrunken heads and possessed items, Wilkins kept a box of wet wipes for his fear of germs, which is ironic considering that he wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty by stealing babies for sacrifice or devouring insects/students at an alarming rate.
Richard Wilkins III was actually No. I and II as well, ruling for over a century thanks to backhanders with the various demons around town. Wilkins also appeared as Faith’s father figure, blurring the line between whether the other slayer was actually good or bad.
Amber Benson’s Tara got plenty of screentime, but the gap that she left after her death reiterates just how much she meant to Willow and the show. Introduced in possibly the best episode ever, “Hush,” Tara’s silent entry set Willow on a path to discovering her sexuality, and Buffy on a path to ground-breaking representation. Starting as the shy, oft-ignored student, Tara became an influential part of the Scooby Gang and an anchor for Willow’s use of magic, always seen as the sensible one.
Season 5’s “Family” may be the only Tara-centric episode in the show’s run, but it is well worth its runtime – the final shot of her and Willow dancing away will always grab us by the hearts. Ushering in a “more mature” era of Buffy with complicated relationships, Tara also sparks the big debate of who is Willow’s greatest love, the Wicca or the werewolf?
While the decision to kill Tara off at the end of Season 6 divided fans (some called it homophobia), it sent Willow on her much-needed dark chapter and offered one of the show’s most heartbreaking scenes. As the first depiction of a lesbian couple on a prime time network show, the Buffyverse and beyond has a lot to thank Tara for.
10. The Master
Buffy the Vampire Slayer featured so many big bads, but it is defined by its formative years, and by Mark Metcalf’s the Master. To this day, there will still be some of us who hide behind the cushion when the Nosferatu-esque villain comes onto our screens. Disappointed with the 1992 feature-film, Whedon decided to take a crack at bringing Rutger Hauer’s Lothos to life in the TV show. The vampire king lurking beneath Sunnydale, Lothos underwent something of a re0vamp and so the Master was born.
Representing that whole “vampire beats helpless woman” trope from the likes of Bram Stoker, the Master couldn’t be any more of a cliche if he tried when we first meet him. However, where the Master was reinvented by Metcalf’s almost gleeful portrayal, showing the lighter side of the vamp and his bleached face.
In theory, you could’ve ended Buffy with the Master draining her blood and dumping her corpse in the water, but where would the fun have been in that? Going from his truly terrifying origins, the Master was shown to be not that much of an obstacle for the Scoobies, while Buffy kicked his ass in round two without ruining her perfectly coiffed hair.
9. Jenny Calendar
Before George R.R. Martin was hacking off characters left, right, and center, Joss Whedon was there with, torturing Buffy fans. Robia LaMorte’s beloved Jenny Calendar was one of Sunnydale High’s few faculty members who wasn’t a demon or an asshole – she was just a witch (well, techno-pagan).
Under the guise of plain computer teacher, Jenny had been sent to Sunnydale to keep an eye on Angel, however, her plans were soon to unravel when the vamp discovered she was part of the gypsy tribe who had cursed him. Jenny may have seemed like a peripheral member of the team, but when she had her neck snapped by a demonic Angelus, it became a turning point for Buffy and Angel’s relationship and came from left field to shock the audience.
Jenny became the first big death of the show, so that surely counts for something. Though originally intended to be a one-shot role, LaMorte’s chemistry with Anthony Head forced the writers to make her a regular fixture. Along with Tara’s death, Jenny’s had long-lasting effects, while it was also Calendar’s death which was instrumental in Giles remaining on his own for most of the show’s run.
It is easy to forget that Seth Green was once a serious actor, but Daniel “Oz” Osbourne was a big factor Buffy’s earlier seasons. While shows like True Blood and Vampire Diaries, along with Twilight series, made big battles out of vampires vs. werewolves, Buffy took a more comedic stance on the story. Oz was the ‘90s equivalent of today’s millennial, with a dreary, yet ironic outlook on life. The glum rocker played in a band named Dingoes Ate My Baby, which is how he first caught the attention of Willow.
Coming to terms with his werewolf instinct, Oz became more complex when realizing that he wasn’t in control as he thought. He and Willow suffered from an on-off relationship thanks to her kissing Xander and Oz sleeping with another wolf, Veruca, in the woods. Oz’s long-term departure was never really explained apart from the fact that Willow chose Tara over him.
Fans remained positive that Oz would return for Buffy’s later seasons, while he was rumored to be a recurring character in the canceled sixth season of Angel. Oz’s home was always in the Buffyverse, but as time went on, it became a reality that Seth Green had left the ‘verse behind for good.
Of all the Buffy characters, Juliet Landau’s part as vamp Drusilla was one of the most unnerving. Her waif-like appearance and floaty demeanor made her all the more creepy. With her childish insanity and sickly condition, Drusilla was brought to town by Spike during the second season and quickly picked up where the Master left off by targeting Buffy. Overtaking the Order of Aurelius, Spike dispatched the Anointed One and the duo put their plan into practice.
Spike and Drusilla had their stories fleshed out through various flashbacks on their tour of carnage around Europe. Part of the whole Angelus siring legacy, Drusilla’s backstory was a lot more complicated that we were first led to believe as she formed a family unit with Angelus and Darla.
Where Spike underwent a huge redemption arc, Dru stuck to her wicked ways right until the moment she fled Sunnydale in season 5. The character clearly stuck with us as much as Landau, who co-wrote a two-issue Drusilla comic arc in 2009. Drusilla will always be remembered for her eerie physicality, that questionable cockney accent, and those chilling china dolls.
6. Wesley Wyndam-Pryce
Putting the geek in geek chic, Wesley was the younger model of Giles with the unlikable sneer. Instigated as the “new” watcher for Faith and Buffy, Wesley is probably the most ineffective Watcher that the Watchers’ Council has ever had the misfortune of hiring – but that’s why we love him. Alexis Denisof’s part was only ever intended to be small, with Whedon planning to kill him off shortly after his introduction in season 3. However, proving popular with fans thanks to his gormless behavior, Wesley appeared in nine episodes of Buffy before moving to be a main character on Angel.
Wesley somehow made Giles into the cool bad boy. Anthony Head had heard that they were casting for Wesley and personally contacted his old friend Denisof for the role. Straight out of Watcher Grad School, Wesley lacked the personal experience that made Giles great, as proven skills during the Mayor’s attack, where Wesley was knocked out almost instantaneously. Wesley’s time on Angel may have moved away from the comic value, for better or for worse, but we will always remember him as the soppy spectacled sir who tried to seduce Cordelia.
Poor Julie Benz, she sure knows how to craft a dramatic death scene. While Darla from Buffy may not top Rita from Dexter, Benz’s vampiric vacation finally came to an end after over four centuries of murder and mayhem. Introduced in Buffy’s very first episode, no one knew how much of an iconic character Darla would become. Benz had originally auditioned for the part of Buffy, but lost out to Sarah Michelle Gellar, and half way through the pilot, Whedon decided to give her a name and not kill her off. Darla’s stint wasn’t exactly long-lived, however, but before her (first) demise it was revealed that she had been romantically involved with Angel.
It was only on the spin-off that we got to find out her backstory as the sire of Angel. Benz has always declared her love for the role, saying that Darla was just misunderstood – she knew she had to eat, she just ate people. From the moment we met Darla in her twist on a catholic schoolgirl uniform, we immediately fell in love with that seeming naivete which masked her bloodlust. Not even dying twice could keep her down!
4. Faith Lehane
If Buffy was spunky, Faith was something else, giving the show the bite that it needed. Faith trod that wonderful antihero line, spending most of season 3 as a secondary antagonist. As evidenced by rumors of a post-Buffy spin-off, Faith was one of the strongest characters out there and was perfectly played by Eliza Dushku. Even though Faith was a huge part of the show, Angel, and the novels, it took Whedon seven years to give her a surname, gifting “Lehane” as part of the Buffy RPG.
Faith was Buffy to the nth degree, coming from a more damaged background and missing the circle of friends and family that Buffy had around her, arguably making her more interesting. It was season 3’s “Bad Girls” which marked Faith’s big turn – after accidentally killing Deputy Mayor Allan Finch, she became increasingly isolated and betrayed the Scooby Gang to Mayor Wilkins. Although Faith would eventually return to fold with the help of Angel, she was actually a better character as a troubled villain.
It was satisfying to see Faith and Buffy put their differences aside for the battle against the First Evil, but it seems such a shame that Dushku turned down The Faith Show. Alas, along with the likes of Ripper or Slayer School, Faith joins the scrapheap of missing Buffy continuations.
3. Anya Jenkins
The title of Vengeance Demon is easily Buffy’s greatest job, so if you are a scorned woman, ask Emma Caulfield’s Anya for some advice. Born as the human named Aud, Anya spent over 1,000 years as the vicious Anyanka, granting sadistic wishes for women who have been wronged by their men. Think of her as a Hellmouth version of the show Cheaters. Anya was reportedly there during the Salem Witch Trials and even dated Dracula.
The sassy and sarcastic Anya soon fell for Nicholas Brendon’s Xander Harris and they became one of the show’s big couples. Anya was originally supposed to be killed in the season 5 finale, but Whedon had to keep her alive when Caulfield couldn’t keep still as Brendon carried her lifeless body off the set. Her appearances were fleeting at first, but Anya’s peak was her first appearance in the episode “The Wish”, where Cordelia wished that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale.
Sure, her death in the final episode may not have been as poignant as others on the list, but so close to the end of the show, it tugged at the heartstrings. As a series regular, Anya was forced to readjust to life as a human, forming most of the show’s comedy in later seasons – as the woman who always speaks her mind, even as a mortal.
2. Joyce Summers
Kristine Sutherland’s Joyce Summers was the mother we always wanted – that fine line between parent and pal. Sutherland was reportedly a fantasy fan who had a strong dislike for horror, however, it didn’t stop her auditioning for the part of Joyce – a role she loved. Her empathy towards the younger members of the cast could clearly be seen through the series run, as a major part of the first three seasons, before being scaled back for the fourth, and having a tragic fifth season. Joyce was constantly scolding Buffy for her rebellious streak, spouting lines like: “I know—if you don’t go out it’ll be the end of the world“
Buffy is known for one of its best ever episodes being the least Buffy-esque of them all. Joyce’s tragic passing from natural causes in “The Body” is one of the saddest hours of television you will ever watch. What made it so moving was that it didn’t come from a demon, a vampire, or anything Buffy could’ve prevented. Joyce’s death forced Buffy into a new adult chapter of her life.
1. Cordelia Chase
Cordelia Chase was the archetypal bullying cheerleader, but we couldn’t help but love her. Charisma Carpenter excelled with the Queen Bee persona, though Cordelia’s vanity and uselessness in battle made her a pretty lame member of the team. Still, she was more than just a damsel in distress; there have even been academic studies written on Cordelia, including “Praising Cordelia: Aggression and Adaptation Among Adolescent Girls.”
Cordy’s time on the show lead to one of the funniest romances out there when she bagged “nice guy” Xander Harris – the two were so mismatched that they almost made it work. They eventually separated and she hooked up with Wesley, but there was always a sense that she and Xander belonged together, so at least they at least parted on good terms. After three seasons on the show, Cordelia left to set her sights on somewhere new, aka Angel.
Where our interest in some characters waned, Cordelia was constantly hilarious, right until her final Buffy episode in Graduation Day. She went off to do her thing on Angel and got involved in all sorts of mumbo jumbo, but as the popular girl of Sunnydale High, Cordelia stole our hearts.
Who is your favorite underrated Buffy the Vampire Slayer character? Sound off in the comments below!
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