It's hard to believe that it's been 20 years since Buffy the Vampire Slayer debuted on the small screen and made its indelible mark on pop culture. Joss Whedon's brainchild was a sublime, nuanced tale where the trials and changes of young adulthood were presented in the form of horror tropes and metaphors.
Across seven seasons, we watched Buffy and her best friends (lovingly dubbed the "Scooby Gang") grow up while taking on the forces of darkness. They saved the world time and again and faced down death itself, all while spouting quippy, quotable dialogue. By series' end, Buffy was a mature woman who'd drastically changed the status quo of the entire world, and at last made peace with her status as the chosen one.
But even though the television show came to an end doesn't mean Whedon ran out of stories to tell. In 2007, he revived the series with an 8th "season" told in comic book form. That comic run was such a success that several additional seasons followed. So if you're not caught up beyond the show, or need a refresher, here's every major development that's happened from Season 8 and beyond.
15 Buffy's Slayer Army
When we last left Buffy in the television series finale, the Slayer and her friends used magic to turn every potential Slayer into the real thing, with all the power that that brings. Buffy herself was left with the option to "live like a [regular] person," and the show made it seem like she was planning exactly that.
But that's boring, and Buffy is too immersed in her duty to give it up so easily. We pick up the story a year and a half later, with the gang having adjusted to the existence of Slayers all over the world. That global scope made the Season 8 comic series Joss Whedon's big statement. Unencumbered from the constraints of a television budget, he worked with artists capable of creating any visuals he could conjure up. And boy, did he dream up some wild stuff.
Buffy now leads a squad of Slayers from a remote base she's set up at a castle in Scotland. Of her original friends, only Xander is still at her side, now unofficially her Watcher. Willow is off doing magic things. Giles is working with Faith to help newly-chosen Slayers who are in danger of slipping to the dark side. Andrew, Robin, Rona, and other Season 7 players are spread out elsewhere, leading Slayer squads of their own.
14 Warren and Amy, sitting in a tree
Remember back in Season 6 when wannabe baddie Warren accidentally killed Tara, and then Willow went dark and flayed him alive? He should have died from such an injury, if not for the intervention of a little magic.
That magic comes thanks to Amy, Willow's former witch pal who spent several years as a rat, then grew jealous of Willow's tremendous power and tried taking her on. After licking her wounds, it turns out that she was watching when Willow yanked Warren's skin off, and worked her own mojo to keep him alive — despite having no skin. (It's as gross as it sounds.) Somewhere along the way, the two of them found common ground in their evil pursuits and became a couple.
Working with the U.S. government, they lead a siege on Buffy's Scottish castle. Predictably, they're defeated but not destroyed. They continue to plague Buffy and Willow throughout Season 8, until the Big Change that comes at the end of the season (keep reading) causes Amy's spell to stop working, and Warren to fall apart into a heap of organs, bone, and blood. Amy is presumably still out there, somewhere.
13 Dawn's more interesting life
After a promising start displaying greater maturity, Season 7 wound up shortchanging Buffy's sister Dawn, not giving her much to do. By Season 8, it turns out her circumstances have changed in a pretty drastic way.
When we first meet her, she's a giant. Like, a forty feet tall woman, who became this way after being cursed by something called a Thricewise. Long story short: Dawn was dating the Thricewise guy but cheated on him with his roommate (and presumably lost her virginity in the process), so the Thricewise cursed her. Hence, giant.
For a while, she doesn't do much besides mope around the castle, but a jaunt to Japan lets Dawn get her Godzilla on, walking between skyscrapers and squishing bad guys beneath her humongous feet. When the giant thing finally wears off, she's shocked to wake up the next morning and find that she's become a centaur. Circumstances arise that require her to save Xander's life with her powerful centaur body, and the two of them subsequently begin a romantic relationship — finally letting Dawn act on the crush she's had on Xander since she was a little girl.
12 Harmony's Exposure
Harmony Kendall turns up in Season 8 by landing her own reality TV show and revealing to the world the existence of vampires — and Slayers. Ever the career gal, Harmony is really in it only for her own gain, aka her desire for stardom. After showing herself to be a vampire to execs at MTV, the network gives her a reality show that's basically the Harmony version of the Kardashians.
For other vampires who want to integrate into society like she does, Harm sets up rules for them to follow, primarily consisting of only biting those they have permission to bite and never drinking enough blood to kill. Vamps are initially portrayed as misunderstood and victimized, but ultimately promoted to pop culture phenomenon status.
Unfortunately, for Harmony to be portrayed as a hero on her TV show, she needs a villain. She finds one in the Slayers, who are essentially a "race" of super-powered buzzkills who want to ruin vampires' fun by, y'know, killing them and stuff. The public learning of the existence of vampires, demons, and Slayers is a massive change to the status quo, and has ramifications that are still unfolding in current issues.
11 Giles dies — but not for long
At the end of Season 8, the big bad Twilight is revealed to be (spoiler alert) Angel, acting on a primal instinct to help Buffy ascend to a higher plane so that together, they could give birth to a new universe. Or something. It was crazy complicated.
Anyway, Buffy refuses and Angel snaps out of it long enough for them to team up and try to save the world. Unfortunately, during the final battle, Angel's Twilight persona takes over. Believing that Buffy will be free to pursue that new universe thing if the people she loves are dead, he snaps Giles' neck, killing her beloved Watcher instantly.
Angel spends the next year seeking redemption by looking for a way to bring Giles back. His search takes him to London, where he gets a helping hand from Faith. His relentless pursuit of resurrecting Giles ultimately succeeds, but this is Buffy, so there's a catch. Instead of returning to life as they remembered him, Giles comes back as a young boy of about 12. He still has his adult memories and knowledge and personality, but he's stuck in the body of a child, forced to grow up all over again. He's not thrilled about that last part, but he is overjoyed to reunite with Buffy, and vice versa.
10 Destroying and planting Seeds
In the Season 8 finale, an artifact is identified below Sunnydale called the Seed of Wonder. In Buffy's mythology, magic exists on Earth but it didn't originate here. Magic — including vampires, witches, demons, and everything else mystical — comes from other dimensions and other realms that predate Earth. The Seed is what connects our world to those other realms; it's the literal source of all magic on Earth.
Buffy destroys the Seed to save the world, but even doing the right thing can have consequences. All magic vanishes from the world, Willow loses her powers, and loads of other bad things occur. The Scoobies make San Francisco their new home, reverting to a status quo more like things were on the TV show. Adding to this sense of normalcy is the fact that most of the other Slayers shun Buffy as an outcast because she destroyed the Seed.
Season 9 is largely about the fallout from the loss of magic, which culminates in the Scooby Gang having to restore magic to save one of their own. Willow creates a new Seed during a massive battle in the season finale at the Deeper Well (last seen on Angel). Magic is restored, but as always, nothing turns out quite as expected.
While magic is gone from the world, a new breed of vampires is born, dubbed "zompires" by Xander. These new vamps are sired the same as ever, but without access to magic and demonic realms beyond Earth, no demon can inhabit the victim's body. So they become hollow, mindless creatures, capable of horrific violence. They also sire nonstop, spreading like a viral infection to numbers that even the hundreds of Slayers worldwide can't contain.
Zompires appear similar to vampires, but there are some subtle differences. They have mouths full of sharp, pointed teeth, and their eyes are orange. Zompires are stronger than ordinary vampires, though it's never revealed why. And unlike vampires, zompires can enter someone's home uninvited.
The restoration of magic via the new Seed of Wonder causes the zompire epidemic to falter, preventing the siring of new zompires. Magic's return allows all new vampires to be the regular variety — though there are some aberrations like sunlight tolerance and the ability to transform into bats until the new rules of magic are nailed down.
8 New Scoobies
In Season 9, several new members are added to the Scooby Gang. One was Robert Dowling, a San Francisco P.D. officer who learns the truth about vampires and Slayers after a string of vampire-related murders leads him to Buffy. He first arrests her, but soon learns to appreciate her skills, becoming a major ally.
A teenager named Billy comes to Buffy's attention after devoting himself to the Slayer cause, attempting to be as much of a true Slayer as he can without superpowers. He trains himself in fighting techniques and proves something of a wunderkind at protecting his hometown from vampires and demons. Buffy soon recruits him, and the mystical force that chooses new Slayers is so impressed by his devotion that it imbues him with the knowledge and memories that all Slayers possess.
Elsewhere, Eldre Koh is a demon who was falsely accused of murdering his own family and imprisoned. But he's freed when Buffy destroys the Seed of Wonder, and subsequently pledges himself to her cause, to repay his debt. Although he betrays her at one point in the name of vengeance on those who'd killed his family, he later promises himself to Buffy's side anew, and not because of a life debt.
7 Buffy faces her hardest decision ever
During a Season 9 story arc that got plenty of media coverage, Buffy is startled to discover that after throwing a wild party and getting drunk, she's become pregnant. After a conversation with Robin Wood about what it was like to grow up with a Slayer for a mother (hint: suckfest), she makes a controversial, heartbreaking decision.
Confiding in Spike, Buffy reveals her pregnancy and the fact that she's chosen to have an abortion. Her duty as the Slayer has convinced her that she can't provide a stable environment for raising a child, and it's one of the darkest moments Buffy the Vampire Slayer has ever explored. Although he's stunned, ever-faithful Spike helps her make the needed arrangements and vows to keep her secret.
Before she can go through with it, Buffy is shocked even more when she discovers that she's a robot! It turns out that Andrew had covertly exchanged her mind with a robot double in order to protect her from a baddie who could drain Buffy's powers. Buffy was never really pregnant; malfunctions in the robot body had caused her mistaken assumption.
The pregnancy may have been a fake-out, but the drama was very real.
6 The new rules of magic
Destroying the Seed of Wonder removed magic from the world. So planting a new Seed should restore magic, right? Well, yeah... Except there's a catch. Magic isn't restored as it was before. New seed = new magic, so the mystical realm is literally starting over at zero. Put simply, there are no rules to the magic. At least not yet.
Remember that thick Vampyr book that Giles tried to give Buffy when they first met? It turns out that book was more significant than Giles let on. It was also a manual for Slayers, and it contained the rules of magic. When the new Seed is formed, all of the old rules are gone. Upon observing that magic was going all wonky, Buffy and Willow are startled to discover that every page of the Vampyr book has gone blank.
With Buffy and her crew in possession of the means to write the new rules of magic, she attracts the attention of several demon lords, who want the book and the power it can grant. After much consternation and a conflict with Anya's old boss D'Hoffryn, Buffy leads a new Mystical Council in creating the new rules.
5 Andrew's breakthrough
Andrew goes through many ups and downs over the years. In Season 8, he becomes an informal Watcher like Xander, and is placed in charge of his own Slayer squad. Buffy later goes on a road trip with him to rescue a missing Slayer, and the two of them bond briefly over geekdom. He makes a big mistake but she forgives him, and assures him he is a full member of the Scooby Gang.
In Season 9, Andrew loses much of his standing with the group after secretly replacing Buffy's human body with a robotic one. He later manages to redeem himself with a gesture of kindness. Season 10 finds Andrew absconding with the Vampyr book and returning to the Sunnydale crater with it. The Scoobies fear he might use the new rules of magic to resurrect Warren, but in reality, he's trying to bring back Tara and Jonathan. It doesn't work.
Andrew's biggest moment comes during a party he attends in Season 10 in which he drinks a potion that gives him the body of a superhero. After dispatching some nasties, Andrew is brimming with confidence and outs himself as gay on the spot, kissing his crush. The potion quickly wears off, causing Andrew to run from his fear of rejection. But a pep talk from Buffy and Xander helps him make peace with himself.
4 Dawn's existential crisis
In Season 9, Dawn and Xander move in together in a San Francisco apartment and try to live normal lives, leaving behind the Slayer/vampire conflict. Of course, that doesn't work out so well, with Xander manifesting anger issues thanks to his difficulty assimilating into "normal" life. But that's only the beginning of their troubles.
Dawn slowly becomes sick until she falls into a coma, and the timely return of Willow (she was off on a personal quest to get her magic back) reveals what's going on. Dawn is human, but she exists thanks to magic. Without magic, she can't live, so all season long she's been slowly fading from existence.
The Scoobies become alarmed upon realizing that they're starting to lose their memories of Dawn. Spike stays with "little bit," helping her hold on as long as possible, while Buffy, Xander, and Willow travel to the Deeper Well, where they believe Willow will be able to access enough magic to restore Dawn's life. Instead, she creates a new Seed, magic is restored worldwide, and Dawn returns. She's later revealed to have regained her status as "the Key," even demonstrating some ability to wield that power by opening doors to other dimensions at will.
3 Xander's betrayal
There's one Season 9 development that's so shocking, it's outright hard to swallow. While Buffy and Willow are formulating their plan to save Dawn's magical life, Dawn's romantic partner Xander is approached by the season's big baddie, Simone the Vampire Slayer. Simone was introduced in Season 8 as a malcontent member of Andrew's squad. She rebelled against the Slayer organization, wanting to do things her way. Her resentment and hatred grew until she was determined to kill Buffy.
Simone asks for Xander's help, as part of her plan with another baddie named Severen, the "Siphon," is to acquire enough power to turn back time to before Buffy destroyed the Seed. This would obviously benefit Xander by keeping Dawn from ever getting sick and fading from existence to begin with, but it requires him to forsake his best friends.
So Xander does the unthinkable and agrees to help them, betraying Buffy to save Dawn's life. Even in such circumstances, it's hard to imagine Xander ever betraying Buffy. Predictably, Simone double-crosses him, forcing him to confess his duplicity to Buffy. She's angered, but after all is said and done, chooses to forgive him.
His mistake haunts him for a very long time to come.
2 The vampire origin story
We never really required the origins of vampires to be explained in detail. But it's a fascinating tale regardless. It goes like this.
Before there were humans, before there were demon residents of Buffy's world as know them today, there were the Old Ones: ancient, huge, powerful beings, who exerted such power over the Earth that it was a hellish dimension until humans rose up and used magic to imprison them in the Deeper Well. Angel's Illyria was one of these Old Ones; Mayor Wilkins attempted to transform himself into a facsimile of an Old One in Season 3.
A monstrous Old One named Maloker sired the first vampires during the conflict against mankind. No doubt he felt that fighting humans with some of their own kind was a brilliant strategy. But the story doesn't end there. Another Old One named Archaeus is later revealed to have sired the Master, which makes Darla, Angel, Drusilla, and Spike somewhat different than other vampires.
1 Buffy falls in love with Spike
Boy, have these two had their share of drama. Unlike Angel, who Buffy was attracted to from the start, Spike began as a major villain. Some might argue that this makes their eventual relationship more poignant.
It took years for Buffy to finally develop true feelings for Spike. He loved her almost from the start, supporting her, helping her, even going through horrific trials to regain his soul — all for her. After the show ended, the comics pick up the story with Spike still backing Buffy at every turn. There are some tumultuous times, once again revisiting the "he loves her, but she doesn't feel the same" trope, while she continues confiding in him her darkest secrets.
At long last, during a mission in Season 10, Buffy admits that his undying devotion has finally won her over, and she confesses her love for him. They consummate their relationship properly (unlike their violent affair in Season 6) immediately thereafter, and then begin a genuine, actual, honest-to-goodness healthy relationship. They're open with their friends about it — who, amazingly, support them completely. In fact, Spike's stock among the Scoobies has risen so far that even Spike and Xander's dynamic is more like college buddies these days. My, how things change!
Did we miss any other major moments from the Buffy comics? Are you interested in a live-action revival, or are the comics more than enough for you? Let us know in the comments.