A teenage girl who slays vampires, and a pair of brothers who hunt demons… Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural might not seem too similar at first glance, but these two hugely popular genre shows actually have quite a lot in common. Both the ’90s smash hit and the current series use monster-killing as a framework for a story that is actually all about the characters. While slaying the things that go bump in the night, Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) & the Scoobies and Sam (Jared Padalecki) & Dean (Jensen Ackles) Winchester explore family connections, friendships, morality, sacrifice and love, and they do it with attitude (and awesome weapons).
Plenty of smaller elements are also found in both shows, from specific monsters to dead mothers, surprise siblings to good vampires, multiple apocalypses and changing home bases, and of course, close friends that help them in their task. Now, recent seasons of Supernatural have seen the appearance of another concept that will be familiar to Buffy fans – a stuffy British organization that believes they know the best way to go about demon slayage… even though our heroes on the ground most definitely know better.
The Watcher’s Council
On Buffy The Vampire Slayer, the Brits in question are the Watchers, or the Watcher’s Council. Represented Stateside by Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head), the Watchers exist to train and guide the Slayer, as well as potential future Slayers. Watchers are trained by the Watcher’s Council at the Watchers Academy in England, where they learn supernatural lore, hand to hand combat, and the code of the Watchers from a young age. After they graduate, Watchers can be assigned to the Slayer, to potential Slayers in training, or put to work in some other capacity. Some Watchers go out in the field to battle demons (when the Slayer is busy elsewhere), track other supernatural activity (witches, werewolves, other monsters, etc), or remain as part of the Watcher’s Council in more administrative capacities.
Although the Watchers are well-intentioned, and certainly know more than anyone else when it comes to vampire lore and dealing with supernatural threats, they can often be more concerned with the rules and traditions of the Watcher’s Council than with right and wrong on a case-by-case basis. They are descended from the Shadow Men, the creators of the first Slayer, and as such tend to view Slayers as weapons to be used rather than whole humans with lives and desires of their own. They have also been known to use questionable means to achieve its ends, and employs a special Black-Ops style team who deal in all kinds of illegal activities including torture and assassination.
The Men Of Letters
While Buffy was made aware of the Watcher’s Council from the start, the Winchester brothers didn’t discover the existence of the Men of Letters until season 8. Sam and Dean learned that their grandfather was connected to a mysterious organization of ‘preceptors, observers, beholders, chroniclers’, who tracked all things supernatural and occult in the United States. While the Men of Letters dealt with hunters, they considered them brutal and inferior, and only worked with them when absolutely necessary. The US branch of the Men of Letters was wiped out in the 50s, thanks to the Knight of Hell, Abbadon, but have recently been resurrected by Sam and Dean, who use a Men of Letters bunker as their home base.
The British Men of Letters, meanwhile, still exist and recently crossed the pond and met the Winchesters. This branch of the organization is almost identical to the Watcher’s Council, with the exception of their origin. Like young Watchers, aspiring Men of Letters train in a school known as Kendricks Academy, where they learn supernatural and occult lore, hand-to-hand combat, and a total devotion to the Code. The Men of Letters have wiped out demon activity in the UK, but graduates of Kendricks still work to keep Britain safe by tracking down supernatural and occult activity and eradicating it, and killing any demon who crosses their borders. However, like the Watchers, they see Hunters as tools to be used, not as equals. They are far more militant in their organisational style, but they have similar political pull and work behind the scenes, and also stoop to using a black ops group for torture, abduction, and assassination when they feel a situation needs it.
Rupert Giles and Mick Davies
These two organizations have something else in common – the men who represent them on screen. Buffy’s Watcher, Giles, is a major character throughout all seven seasons of the show, and his development and relationship with Buffy is one of the most touching parts of the series. Initially, Giles is stuffy and formal, uncomfortable with Buffy’s desire to try and balance a normal life with her slaying. As the series progresses, however, he develops into a true father figure for her, putting her safety above all else. He loses faith with the Watcher’s Council, and his difficulties with their methods come to a head when Buffy turns 18 and undergoes the Cruciamentum, a test that pits her against a vampire without her powers. Giles goes against their wishes to help Buffy – and has his position stripped from him, although he continues to help without the Watchers’ approval.
Recently, it looked like Supernatural was following a similar character arc with the representative for the British Men of Letters, Mick (Adam Fergus). Initially, Mick arrived to try and act as an intermediary between the Men of Letters and the American Hunters, but struggled to deal with the Winchester’s methods. They were not the neat and clean procedures that he was used to, and he is shocked by the violence that he sees on the ground. In ‘The Raid’, the Men of Letters’ base is attacked by Vampires (led by the Alpha), and Sam saves Mick’s life, leaving him one of the only survivors. It seemed that this could be Mick’s version of the Cruiciamentum, a turning point for his relationships with the Hunters and the Men of Letters. After the attack, he seemed to be coming over to the Winchester’s way of doing things, struggling to follow the Code when it means killing innocents, and not checking in as he is supposed to. However, Mick’s story was cut short last week, when he refused an order from the Men of Letters, and was shot in the head for his insubordination (a much stricter punishment than the Watcher’s Council would have doled out).
The Memory Remains: Winchesters vs. Men Of Letters
Now that Mick is dead, what does that mean for the future of the Men of Letters and the Winchesters? The promo for the next episode, ‘The Memory Remains’, doesn’t give any hint as to how they will react to Mick’s death, so fans might not see the fallout of ‘The British Invasion’ just yet. However, now that the Men of Letters have decided to eradicate the American Hunters, they are certainly not done with Sam and Dean. In fact, it looks like the Men of Letters may well become a new ‘big bad’ for the show. Having successfully dealt with God, the Devil, the Knights of Hell, the King of Hell, the Darkness, and every other apocalyptic evil that has come their way, there is little doubt that the boys will be able to cope with a few British occultists… right?
As for the Watcher’s Council: After Buffy decided that she wanted nothing to do with a Council that held her life in low regard, she cut ties with the organization. She eventually agreed to work with them again, but refused to take any orders, and usually preferred to ignore them completely. In the final season, the Council was destroyed by Caleb, and then re-built in the comics by Buffy and her gang, with Giles at its head.
If something similar is in the works for the Men of Letters, it may mean that Sam and Dean are able to ‘convince’ the organization to leave the US, and stop trying to get involved in their work. After which, we may see them again in future, but they will know that when it comes to demon hunting, the Winchesters are the ones in charge.