It’s been over twenty years since Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s groundbreaking pilot hit TV screens and it remains one the most beloved and influential shows of all time. The series subverted expectations, in the process shattering illusions of what people thought television was capable of. It forever altered the pop culture landscape, introducing audiences to a feminist icon they could truly identify with. The show popularized serialized storytelling at a time when TV programs were largely episodic and even changed the way that viewers talked by introducing them to “Buffy speak.”
By taking the idea that high school is Hell quite literally, Joss Whedon was able to use werewolves, witches, and vampires to explore themes of desire, female empowerment, and addiction. The writers personified feelings such as isolation, alienation and humiliation, using them to ground fantastical situations in those very real emotions.
Buffy was praised for a great many things, from snappy dialogue to clever plotting. However, one of the most vital elements of Whedon’s magnum opus was undoubtedly the amazing characters with which he chose to populate this world. These players were as lovable as they were relatable and the series continues to resonate with viewers of all ages. However, not all characters introduced to the series could be as awesome as Buffy, Willow, or Xander. While certain new additions had an undeniably positive effect on the series as a whole, there were also a few that BtVS would’ve been better off without.
Here are 7 New Character Additions That Hurt Buffy The Vampire Slayer (And 13 That Saved It).
20 Saved - Spike and Dru
Sunnydale got its very own Sid and Nancy when Spike and Drusilla showed up in season 2 episode “School Hard”, quickly establishing themselves as the new Big Bads in town. They were never meant to last as long as they did, but stellar performances from James Marsters and Juliet Landau gave both characters a stay of execution. These two didn’t just shake up Sunnydale, but the show's entire mythology. They were living proof that vampires were capable of genuine emotion. Their intense bond and amazing chemistry made fans fall hard for the couple.
Spike, of course, went on to play a much larger role in the series as a whole. Writers kept finding new ways to justify his continued existence and fans never complained, because no one wanted the vampire gone.
19 Hurt - Riley
Buffy needed to move on from Angel, but did she really have to take up with "Captain Cardboard"? Riley Finn (Mark Blucas) first appeared in the season 4 premiere, “The Freshman”, and went on to hurt the show in ways almost too numerous to list.
With him came the Initiative, which remains the storyline that most BtVS fans would rather forget.
Even after the organization was no longer part of the narrative, Riley continued to overstay his welcome. Viewers were forced to deal with his constant whining and eventually, his infidelity. These were all plot points that the show could’ve done without. It was sad when Riley helicoptered out of Buffy’s life, but only because we care about her feelings. Ultimately, no one really missed him.
18 Saved - Tara
Now this is how you create a new love interest. Oz and Willow had become one of the show’s most beloved couples and fans were as heartbroken as she was over his sudden departure. Replacing the werewolf was going to be just as difficult as finding a way for Buffy to get over Angel. However, the show chose to go in a new direction entirely with Tara Maclay, who debuted in season 4 episode “Hush”. Not only was she a woman, but she also complemented Willow in very different ways than Oz had.
Not all viewers embraced this storyline initially, but Amber Benson’s performance quickly won most of them over. Before long, fans became incredibly invested in Willow and Tara’s relationship. In many ways, they became the show’s central couple, as well as its emotional anchor.
17 Saved - Anya
Much like James Marsters, Emma Caulfield earned more time on the show through her impressive performance. Her arc wasn’t meant to last much past her first appearance in season 3 episode “The Wish”. Anya Christina Emmanuella Jenkins went from human to vengeance demon and back again. She was over 1100 old, but had completely lost touch with her humanity before meeting the Scoobies.
It was more than Anya's evolution that made her special, though. She was the character who posed the questions that most people want to ask but think that they shouldn’t. Whether ruminating on love, loss, or the simple cold truth of mortality, Anya always said exactly what she meant. Even her lack of tact was charming. The former demon brought a different perspective to the group, as well as some undeniable humor.
16 Hurt - Dawn
This is kind of a tough one, because the storyline surrounding Dawn’s existence was one of the show’s best. Her introduction in the season 5 premiere, “Buffy vs. Dracula”, was particularly genius. Dawn was dropped into the series as if she had always been there, leaving viewers wondering if they had missed earlier clues of Buffy having a sister.
Dawn herself was always little more than an annoyance to most fans.
It didn’t help that Michelle Trachtenberg played the character as younger than she was. This wasn’t all her fault, as Dawn was initially meant to be portrayed by a younger actress. The main problem wasn’t season 5 Dawn anyway. In later years, writers clearly weren’t sure what to do with her, giving Buffy’s sister one ludicrous plot line after another: “Dawn’s in trouble. Must be Tuesday.”
15 Saved - Glory/Ben
Glory is one of the greatest Big Bads ever to appear on BtVS. Debuting in season 5 installment “There’s No Place Like Home”, she brought the season-long threat to a whole new level. Glory wasn’t just another demon. She was a literal god, just trying to get back to her home sweet Hell. However, it was more than just sheer power that made Glory such a great villain. Clare Kramer’s manic performance is what really set her apart.
Introduced an episode before Glory, Ben (Charlie Weber) was serviceable enough.
What really brought depth to the kind doctor was the revelation that he and Glorificus were sharing a body.
This was one of the show’s most successful twists. Seriously, no one saw it coming.
14 Saved - Wesley
While it can be argued that the character of Wesley Wyndam-Pryce was utilized far better on Angel, there’s no denying that the stuffy new Watcher was another great addition to the cast of BtVS. Debuting in season 3 installment “Bad Girls”, Alexis Denisof imbued Wesley with undeniable heart and humor, despite the character’s uptight personality.
Aside from Wesley himself, it was the dynamic between him and Giles that helped to elevate the series during season 3. We got to explore a whole new side Buffy’s Watcher. It was one thing to know about his “Ripper” past, but it was the juxtaposition of Rupert and Wesley that truly proved how awesome Giles actually was - not that we didn’t love him already.
13 Hurt - Warren
The Trio is kind of everyone’s least favorite Big Bad. However, while Jonathan and Andrew were both worthy additions to the series, Warren never had any redeeming qualities. He first appeared in season 5 episode “I Was Made to Love You” and proved himself a total creep immediately.
Although Warren started out as a punchline, he turned out to be a misogynistic monster.
Adam Busch did an excellent job of making the character incredibly unlikable, but it was Warren’s cruelty that brought season 6 to the lowest of places. “Dead Things” was one of the most brutal episodes of BtVS, and not in a good way. Plus, no Buffy fan will ever forgive him for firing the gun that took Tara’s life. Warren did a lot of damage and his character was never compelling or likable enough to outweigh that fact.
12 Saved - Oz
Fans fell in love with Daniel “Oz” Osbourne (Seth Green) around the same time that Willow did. From the moment he appeared in season 2 episode “Inca Mummy Girl”, he was pretty much smitten with her - even in her Hallowe'en costume. Unlike Xander, Oz actually realized how awesome Willow was and fans were overjoyed to see her finally properly appreciated.
Oz was so beloved, in fact, that even though he left under truly awful circumstances, many viewers were still torn when he came back for Willow. A lesser character could never have remained in fans’ hearts after such indiscretions. In the end, the writers found someone even better for Willow, but it speaks volumes that so many viewers were willing to forgive Oz after he locked himself in a cage with Veruca.
11 Hurt - Veruca
Veruca (Paige Moss) made her first appearance in season 4 episode “Living Conditions”. Oz may have thought that she was pretty cool, but viewers noticed that something was off about her.
Most Buffy fans are pretty protective of Willow and no one liked seeing her relationship with Oz threatened.
It’s not that it makes no sense that something would break up Willow and Oz. They dated in high school and many such relationships do not survive the transition to college. The main issue was the werewolf herself. Veruca was kind of over the top, from her musical performances to her evil machinations. Perhaps she was meant to be a two-dimensional mustache-twirling villain. Regardless, no one mourned Veruca after Oz ended her life.
10 Saved - Mayor Wilkins
Fans were introduced to Mayor Richard Wilkins in season 3 episode “Homecoming”. Sure, he was a major Big Bad whose ascension plans would’ve left the world in ruins, but he was also incredibly polite. BtVS has often excelled at creating villains that fans still kind of rooted for. The Mayor was one of the best, and not just because he was such a formidable opponent.
Richard’s relationship with Faith gave his character real depth. Much like the love that Spike and Dru shared with one another, the Mayor’s affections for his protégée made him much more human, which in turn made viewers care more about him. Plus, Harry Groener’s pitch-perfect performance made it impossible not to enjoy Mayor Wilkins.
9 Hurt - Kennedy
Kennedy was as much of an epic fail as Riley. The writers proved that they could craft more than one great love interest for Willow, so what happened with her? Introduced in season 7 episode “Bring on the Night”, Kennedy (Iyari Limon) was spoiled, argumentative and honestly, kind of bland. The key to a great TV relationship is making both characters compelling in their own right.
While fans came to love both Oz and Tara rather quickly, you’d be hard pressed to find many Kennedy fans out there.
There was nothing about Willow’s new girlfriend to even distinguish her from the other Potential Slayers, save her bad attitude. Willow deserved better and so did fans.
8 Saved - Faith
Shaking up things from the moment she arrived in season 3 installment “Faith, Hope and Trick”, Faith Lehane was Buffy’s dark reflection. The Slayers were incredibly different from one another and yet, undeniably two sides of the same coin. Eliza Dushku's magnetic performance brought so much passion and energy to the role, and she had no trouble fitting in with the rest of the cast.
Faith provided new depth not only for the slayer line, but also to the idea of what it actually means to be Slayer. Before Faith’s arrival, fans had never seen a Slayer go rogue. However, it didn’t matter how far Faith went. Viewers were always hoping that she could somehow redeem herself. Thanks to her time on Angel, she was given that chance.
7 Saved - Robin
Robin Wood’s (D.B. Woodside) debut in season 7 premiere “Lessons” initially painted the new school principal as another villain lurking in the shadows. However, much like the rest of the characters on BtVS, appearances are often deceiving. Not only was Robin one of the good guys, but he was also the son of New York-based slayer, Nikki. The series teased this out slowly until fans realized the truth shortly before it was revealed.
It was a pretty genius move.
Although it’s easy to hate on Robin for his sneak attack on Spike, the vampire did off his mother, so his frustration can be understood. In the end, Robin turned out to be a great addition to the Scoobies, bringing both new perspective and an actual bag of tricks to the mix.
6 Hurt - Adam
Buffy almost always managed to deliver the goods when it came to the season-long Big Bad: compelling characters, with humor and even a bit of heart. The series excelled in that moral grey area, making viewers sympathize with villainous even as they committed unforgivable acts. Sadly, Adam (George Hertzberg) was a giant exception to this success.
The ersatz Frankenstein’s monster - or Walsh’s monster, as the case may have been - first appeared in season 4 episode “A New Man”. The only cool thing he ever really did was skewer his creator, Maggie, who was also not a great addition to the series. All in all, Adam was very powerful, but a boring villain. Defeating him required a major deus ex machina, which would’ve been fine if he had been a better character in the first place.
5 Saved - Andrew
Andrew Wells, aka Tucker’s brother, initially seemed as irredeemable as Warren Mears. When we met him in season 6 episode “Flooded”, he was a whiny coward with nothing even resembling a moral compass. After Andrew returned the following year, the first thing he did was take his best friend’s life.
Most fans weren’t happy to see him again, but somewhere over the course of season 7, this changed.
Like BtVS has done with the best of its characters - most of whom, let’s be real, have done some terrible things - the show found a way to endear him to viewers. Andrew may not have exactly been instrumental in Buffy’s battle with the First, but the former villain definitely brought some levity to a fairly dark season. He also provided an excellent example of the power of compassion.
4 Saved - Kendra
Interestingly, Bianca Lawson was originally cast in the role of Cordelia Chase. However, due to scheduling conflicts, the actress was forced to take a smaller part in BtVS. If we can all just put aside her painfully awful accent, everyone can probably admit that Kendra herself was a pretty cool addition to the series.
Fans were introduced to the other slayer in season 2 installment “What’s My Line Part 1”. She appeared initially to be another enemy, but instead proved vital in saving Angel’s life. Kendra’s existence answered important questions about the slayers and it was this new line, beginning with her, that later allowed for the introduction of Faith. The juxtaposition of Kendra and Buffy was also quite interesting, as they each approached their calling so differently. She also helped Buffy see that slaying was more than just a job.
3 Hurt - Forrest
Another irritating and useless season 4 addition, Forrest Gates (Leonard Roberts) was introduced in “The Initiative”.
He was little more than a foil for Riley and Buffy’s relationship.
Forrest’s feelings for his fellow soldier bordered on obsession and there was nothing interesting about him in his own right.Riley’s other pal Graham may have been boring, but at least he wasn’t so annoying. Forrest was self-righteous and obviously had very little going on in the way of an actual life. No one mourned him after he his passing. The worst part about Forrest’s demise was that it wasn’t even the last we saw of him, because Adam chose to reanimate his husk. Even then, he was still a total drag.
2 Saved - Jonathan
Jonathan Levinson (Danny Strong) had a continuing presence on Buffy the Vampire Slayer for years after his first appearance in season 2 installment “Inca Mummy Girl”. He was always on the periphery, being picked on, rescued or taken advantage of. Prior to joining the Trio, Jonathan was at the center of season 3 episode “Earshot” and season 4 installment “Superstar”. The former was incredibly poignant and the latter, a hilarious change of pace.
Many fans were surprised to see Jonathan pulled by the dark side, but he never fully committed like his cohorts did. Less obviously evil than Warren and not as easily manipulated as Andrew, he eventually saw the error of his ways. Sadly, by the time Jonathan made an effort to redeem himself, it was too late. That opportunity was stolen from him by his best friend.
1 Saved - Angelus
None of Buffy’s greatest Big Bads were quite as personal or painful to witness as Angelus. Aside from the unfortunate implications of essentially punishing Buffy for being intimate with her boyfriend, there is no denying that the second half of season 2 was the show at its best. This was due in large part to David Boreanaz’s villainous turn.
Two people who were so in love destroying each other was utterly brutal and completely gut-wrenching. It also led to some of BtVS’s most empowering moments. Buffy was just a teenage girl shouldering the weight of the entire world. Feeling as though she had lost everything led to the epiphany that she still possessed what mattered most. Much of the series is about surviving life on life’s terms. More than just enduring this pain, Buffy managed to recover from it.
What new characters do you feel hurt or saved Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Let us know in the comments!