The world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel is an expansive one filled with fascinating characters, from the leading protagonists to bit players who leave a big impression. To sort the Slayers from the Slayerettes, Alex, Tim and guest Buffyverse expert Imi Spencer-Dale have bracketed up 64(ish) characters, seeded them based on the number of episodes they appear in, and will be eliminating them one at a time in a knockout-style tournament. Who will be the actual Chosen One? Follow us as we find out…
(170 appearances, debut: Buffy 1.1 “Welcome to the Hellmouth”)
Gwen Raiden (3 appearances, debut: Angel 4.2 “Ground State”)
Alex: And we open with an incredibly unfair match-up. One of these characters has an entire TV show named after himself, after all, in which the other is a three-episode guest.
Imi: Angel becomes a muppet at one point, and carries it off with aplomb. I think that’s got to gain him +2,000 points.
I think Gwen had a lot of potential but instead hit that weird ‘multiple episodes but not quite recurring’ situation. She had interesting dynamics with Angel/Gunn/Fred and I’d really have liked to see more of all that, especially given the overall lack of female characters in Angel.
Tim: Gwen Raiden, which is such a comic-book name I’m surprised she isn’t based on a Wildstorm character from 1998, feels almost like she’s being set up for a spin-off in her appearances. It’s sort of strange to me that she appears in a season that we also get a Faith appearance in, because she seems very much cut from the same cloth. Sexy roguish lady who can compete on the same level as Angel, with a tragic backstory to boot.
Alex: Speaking of comics… I love how much Gwen feels like an incursion of superhero fiction into the Buffyverse – a major influence on both shows but one that goes frequently unacknowledged, especially in Angel. With her tragic backstory and inability to touch anyone, she’s basically an X-Man.
Imi: Yes X-Men is the X-act thing I thought of.
But the thing about Angel is that he just got better and better. I couldn’t imagine Buffy S1’s Angel being a comedic character, but it worked well. He was also good at having different/interesting dynamics with everyone like from caring for Fred, sparring with Spike, jealousy from Xander.
Alex: It’s a shame to lose Gwen so early on, but I don’t think this can go any other way… Are we all agreed that Angel takes it?
Imi: I think that’s exactly the case – it’s an easy one because it’s Angel, not because of Gwen.
Tim: Like you say, He’s a much more rounded character that manages to pull off comedy, drama, action and horror in equal measure, plus he’s very hunky. Angel gets my vote.
(14 appearances, debut: Buffy 1.8 “I Robot, You Jane”)
(14 appearances, debut: Buffy 5.4 “Out of My Mind”)
Alex: For me, this is a battle of the Seasons. Jenny is a key part of Season 2’s Angelus arc, Ben is… the brother of Season 5’s Big Bad, I guess.
Tim: Wait, are you saying there’s some kind of connection between Ben and Glory?
Imi: One of the greatest moments in Buffy – Ben has to get some points for giving us that.
Tim: But equally, Jenny Calendar gets points for introducing the term “cyberpagan” into our vocabulary
Imi: I really enjoyed the whole Ben storyline, but as an actual character he was a bit bland. Similarly, though, I never got on board with Jenny. Her character never clicked for me; she was just ‘there’.
Alex: They both kind of end up as plot devices in the story of that season’s Big Bad. But Jenny at least had a personality before that.
Tim: I only really found Ben interesting towards the end of Season 5, when his own self-interest took over and he decided to align himself with Glory. For me, that was a really interesting swerve from what we’d normally expect his arc to be.
Imi: I’d never thought of that before – a lot of characters would have killed themselves for the good of the world.
Tim: Jenny, while her intro came in one of Season 1’s ropiest episodes, developed into someone interesting a lot more quickly. Her chemistry with Giles was great, and full credit to Robia LaMorte for playing regular Jenny, Eyghon Jenny and First Evil Jenny.
Tim: Plus, her death, and the fallout from it, are some of the greatest moments Buffy ever had
Alex: It’s unfortunate that she becomes the nexus for Buffy/Angel’s obsession with ‘gypsies’, but for me Jenny is a much more flexible character. My vote goes to the Calendar.
Imi: They’re both very plot device-y, but I think I preferred the ‘Ben is Glory’ plot twist to ‘Jenny is monitoring Angel’ twist. I’m going to say Ben, even though I know I’m outnumbered.
Tim: I do agree that hopefully in 2018, the Roma stuff would be handled a lot better than Buffy and Angel manage, and likewise I agree the Ben twist is probably the better one. However, I feel like Jenny manages to exist beyond her status as a plot device, whereas Ben never really escapes it, so my vote is for Jenny.
WINNER: Jenny Calendar
Daniel “Oz” Osbourne
(41 appearances, debut: Buffy 2.4 “Inca Mummy Girl”)
(8 appearances, debut: Angel 5.15 “A Hole in the World”)
Alex: Two characters who start out human and, against their will, become something supernatural – but otherwise they couldn’t be much more different.
Tim: I like Illyria – I think it’s a fantastic performance by Amy Acker that really shows off her range after being Fred for three years – but the way that arc is handled is kind of odd. The fact that she sticks around after the initial impact of her arrival is sort of …awkward?
Alex: I actually feel kind of the opposite. Rewatching Angel recently, I was shocked how long it took for Fred to become Illyria – she’s only in a handful of episodes, but she was a much bigger presence in my memory.
Imi: Illyria was an extremely bold move that paid off. There was definitely a big shock factor on her entrance and she was a good hate sponge, but only for like half an episode until you start to get various feels from/for her. She was also good for showing how other people deal with grief, I suppose.
I read that if there had been a Season 6 of Angel, they were going to have Fred and Illyria battle it out in the body and try to figure out a way to separate the two and have both, which I think is quite telling of how she’d become a beloved character in her own right.
Tim: I also think it’s a shame we didn’t get more of her time-warping powers, and that she gets nerfed down to just being strong and tough. There’s plenty of folks in Angel who were like that, and having an Elder God in the main cast should be an excuse to do some really weird stuff.
Imi: But Oz… Oz was enjoyable from the start, and the best thing about him was how much he loved Willow. The first few episodes where he’s just mesmerised by “this girl” were adorable. And I always love a good ‘teenager having to lead a double life’ story.
His exit was really badly handled, though. It was because he wanted to leave the show, and I feel like they punished the character for that?
Alex: The idea of these shows punishing characters for actors’ decisions is something that’s likely to recur in these discussions.
Imi: It just doesn’t make any sense. Oz has literally spent seasons being adamant he loves Willow and hates being a werewolf and is terrified of hurting anyone.
Alex: He really felt like a character who was ripe for revisiting in the later seasons, the way Buffy did with Riley, Amy and Andrew, and Angel with Harmony, Lindsey and Anne.
Imi: Oh – Oz was also meant to be back in Angel Season 6, to help deal with Angel’s werewolf girlfriend Nina!
Tim: Such a shame he didn’t return to show off some fully-controlled wolfiness. Although, that werewolf suit was consistently atrocious.
Imi: Have you seen Teen Wolf? Werewolf Oz is a delight.
Alex: But the fact that he never got a proper ending isn’t enough to undo all the great things about Oz. He brings a very different personality and sense of humour to the cast.
Tim: Oz definitely has some of the best lines in the show. He also has one of my favourite emotional moments in the show, which is when Willow has been captured by Faith and the Mayor and the Scoobies are discussing whether or not they can trade the Big Box of Spiders for her. They’re all arguing and Oz very calmly gets up and, without a word, smashes the ingredients they were going to use to destroy the box.
Alex: This is the toughest decision so far, but the evidence presented by Mr Maytom clinches it. Oz fur-ever.
Tim: I feel like Oz and Illyria would have really got on, but yeah, my vote is for Oz too.
Imi: This… dingo is… my baby?
WINNER: Daniel ‘Oz’ Osbourne
(37 appearances, debut: Angel 1.16 “The Ring”)
(9 appearances, debut: Angel 3.10 “Dad”)
Alex: Once again we come to the fact that Angel has a pretty thin bench of female characters, especially compared to its sister show.
[Special Guest Star Reece Lipman: Who the hell is Justine Cooper?]
Imi: Justine is the WORST. Weird creepy boyfriend/dad Stockholm Syndrome situation with Holtz, quite one-dimensionally angry and no fun quirkiness or intense charisma to redeem her.
Alex: I really like the idea of an Evil Buffy/Giles team, but – apart from a few cool moments in training montages – the execution is definitely lacking.
Tim: Apparently, Justine was only created because the actress who played Kate Lockley was no longer available, which is a shame, because having Kate become a villain would have been a really interesting end to her story. Instead, we get Justine, who like you say, feels very thin for someone who has a considerable impact on the story.
Lilah, on the other hand, is pretty consistently awesome.
Imi: Lilah has that perfect ‘charismatic villain’ thing going on, also got a lot of ‘strong female character’ in her too.
Tim: Her relationships with Angel, Lindsey and Wesley are all really compelling, and when she shows up again at the end of Season 4, it’s a great reminder of what her presence brought to the show.
Imi: She definitely has chemistry with the good guys. I don’t love that she became Wesley’s ‘love interest’, though, that was all a bit off-putting.
Alex: I think Lilah is possibly the clearest version of the Wolfram & Hart ‘lawyers are evil, but no seriously’ concept – someone looking out for her own interests and chasing promotion whatever the cost. Justine has none of that clarity of purpose, and so this round has to go to Lilah.
Tim: Agreed. To quickly follow up on Imi’s comments – Lilah gets to be a strong female character in a very different way to most of those on the show, displaying intelligence and ruthlessness, rather than ass-kickery or occult power. It’s nice to have that in the mix, even if it is in an evil character.
WINNER: Lilah Morgan
Next time on Chosen Ones: We move onto our next set of qualifiers, as the Potential Slayers, two sort-of Watchers and one gold-standard proper Slayer face off, alongside some of the Buffyverse’s only characters of colour.
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