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 + 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…
(151 appearances, debut: Buffy 1.1 “Welcome to the Hellmouth”)
(3 appearances, debut: Buffy 5.7 “Fool for Love”)
Tim: Could it be… our very first Slayer face-off?
Alex: Indeed! Two Chosen Ones, separated by 20 years and… well, a whole lot of episodes. I think it’s hard to pretend that this match isn’t going to go straight to the Buffster, so let’s take a moment to discuss and appreciate Nikki.
Tim: I think it speaks volumes about Nikki’s first appearance that she was brought back two seasons later, and integrated into the backstory of a Season 7 character. She does a lot with that maybe-two-minutes of screen time and – I think – not even any lines of dialogue.
Alex: In her first appearance, Nikki actually doesn’t even have a name. She’s credited as ‘Subway Slayer’, and played by April Weeden, one of the show’s stunt doubles. When she comes back in Season 7, she’s played by K.D. Aubert.
Tim: That performance is so great – it’s a shame she didn’t get to reprise the role later on, as she brought so much swagger to the part. She really feels like someone who could hold their own against Spike.
Imi: I’m also a fan of the fact that she exists in the mythology before she actually appears. Spike’s “I’ve killed two Slayers” could’ve just been another bit of swagger, but there were levels upon levels of development built on it over the seasons.
Alex: How much of an actual character is there to Nikki, do you reckon, or is she more of an idea? A Slayer from the past, one of Spike’s murder-conquests, the show’s concept applied to a ’70s Blaxploitation movie aesthetic?
Imi: She does also have the memorable hook of being the only Slayer (as far as we know) to have a child.
Tim: As well as the Blaxploitation influence, I wonder how much Blade figured into the thinking behind the character – especially old-school Tomb of Dracula Blade.
Either way, Nikki is definitely more of an archetype in that first appearance, but she’s a good one. The other Slayer killed by Spike is likewise a pop culture reference – in her case to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and wuxia films – but she doesn’t have Nikki’s impact, or her staying power.
Alex: All this makes me think that I absolutely would have watched a ‘Nikki in ’70s New York’ spin-off show. But, alas, the show we did get stars Buffy Summers, and she benefits from 151 episodes of character development, so I suspect this is the last we’ll be seeing of Nikki.
Tim: At the end of the day, as cool as Nikki is, she never really moves beyond that archetype. Buffy takes the win here.
Imi: As expected, Buffy is slaying the competition. She’s going to be a hard One to beat.
WINNER: Buffy Summers
Mayor Richard Wilkins
(15 appearances, debut: Buffy 3.5 “Homecoming”)
Principal Robin Wood
(14 appearances, debut: Buffy 7.1 “Lessons”)
Alex: And speaking of Nikki’s Season 7 return… here’s her son Robin!
Imi: WAIT. CAN I DO MY PUN NOW BEFORE ANY OF YOU STEAL IT?
Tim: DO IT.
Imi: I feel like Robin Wood‘ve been better served by turning up earlier, in a season without all the Potentials.
Alex: NICE. But, please, take us Behind the Pun, Imi – why do you say that?
Imi: I think he got a bit lost amongst all the new ‘main’ characters being thrown at us in Season 7.
If he’d been the only new one to turn up, with his backstory and gradual joining of the team, he could have been the Scooby Gang’s very own amalgamation of Wesley and Gunn.
Alex: And I guess having the slayer-fu has less impact when most of those new additions are superpowered too.
Actually, I wonder if he’s the kind of character the current Boom comics reboot will bring in early doors – he’d make a really interesting fit, for the reasons you’ve identified, and provide a cool way into the wider Slayer mythology.
Imi: He had a good dynamic with Buffy, and Giles, and Spike; there is a lot more they could have done there.
Tim: He would have brought an interesting energy to Season 6, too. Robin is very much a ‘grown-up’, which the Scoobies often struggle to be.
Alex: I do love the way he’s introduced, though – the latest Principal of Sunnydale High, who we’re trained to think of as antagonists, and clearly has something shady going on, but has this sexy chemistry with Buffy. I definitely could’ve bought him as a more long-term love interest for her.
Imi: The more I think about him, the more sure I am that Robin Wood (it took me three tries not to type ‘woof’) gets my vote.
Alex: …So, basically, what we’re all saying is, more Robin Wood please? Where does that leave the Mayor?
Tim: I LOVE MAYOR RICHARD WILKINS THE THIRD.
I love that the Mayor answers some of the lingering questions of “why hasn’t someone noticed all these vampires”. I love that he’s such a different type of antagonist to the Master, Spike, Drusilla and Angel. I love his relationship with Faith, and the constant question of whether or not he’s manipulating her, or if he actually cares for her. I love that he’s invulnerable for the vast majority of his time as an antagonist, and so he can just wander around, willy nilly.
And I love that he turns into a giant snake at the end of it all.
Imi: Tim makes a compelling point. I’m very much just nodding along.
Alex: Yeah, that’s frustratingly spot on, leaving me with nothing to add. I love both characters, they get about the same amount of screentime and development, so I guess the question becomes: who adds more to the show, that wouldn’t be there without them?
Imi: When you put the question like that, it probably should be the Mayor. But the question of who I’d like to see more of, I’ve definitely talked myself into Principal Woof… WOOD.
Alex: I’m not sure about that. I think some of my favourite things about the Mayor – the very human Big Bad, with a lighter personality – are also present in Glory and the Trio’s assorted nerdy members. But he does have the advantage of getting there first.
Tim: I should say I do like Robin, and I think he brings some interesting elements, but like Imi mentioned, he’s a bit crowded out due to the rest of the stuff happening in S7. I think the Mayor is far more essential, whereas Robin is just a nice new flavour in the mix.
Imi: I was going to say that as Robin’s quite underserved, the Mayor probably wins but while I was tickled by the Mayor’s existence, I think wanting Robin Wood to join a main cast means has to get him my vote
Alex: Oh god, do I have the deciding vote? This could take all day.
[basically an entire day passes]
…I’m going to go with Robin. Partly because I feel bad about killing off the entire Wood family in one go. Moreso because it’s nice to see a person of colour who might’ve actually stuck around in the Buffy cast. But most of all because it feels like his story isn’t done. I loved what we got of the Mayor but, a few ghostly Season 7 reappearances aside, his term was up right when it should have been.
(47 appearances, debut: Buffy 4.10 “Hush”)
(9 appearances, debut: Buffy 1.3 “Witch”)
Alex: When I saw how the brackets had shaken out, this was one of the match-ups I definitely smiled at, because Tara and Amy feel like the two sides of Willow’s relationship with magic. They’re basically the angel and devil on her shoulders.
And, for assorted reasons, angel is really the only way to describe Tara.
Imi: Tara is fantastic – the way she joined the group, as a supporting character for Willow and then as part of the bigger cast, all felt very human and organic. And once she’s in, she makes a really good addition. She’s such a nice calming influence on the whole crazy gang, who ties it together nicely.
Alex: I also liked that her shyness made her a flavour of Whedon character we don’t get to see very often, given his tendency towards the Big Talkiness.
Imi: And definitely made her more relatable for me at that age, too.
Tim: Meanwhile, Amy is a fascinating character, given her initial introduction and the way she then becomes involved with magic, but I feel like we never get to explore her properly. That her final appearance basically reduces her to a villain really underserves her.
Imi: I can’t believe they didn’t spend more time and effort trying to turn Amy back into a human. Imagine if Xander had been rat-ified. They’d have done nothing else but try to fix him.
Alex: Amy is an interesting flip of the Jonathan model we’ve discussed before. She’s in the third episode of the show ever – actress Elizabeth Anne Allen originally auditioned for the role of Buffy – and is basically the first potential new friend the Scoobies meet after Jesse dies. After that, she remains a constant presence, appearing in every season except for the fifth – sometimes just for a brief cameo, like when they accidentally de-rat her – and she serves a lot of roles over that time.
But I think that, as Tim says, she’s dragged down by what role those later appearances place her into – and especially her ties to the infamous ‘magic = drugs’ storyline.
Imi: I think some more investigation of Amy would’ve been good. She turns from being bullied by her mum to maliciously drugging Willow – I’m sure those are connected, and I’d like to see how those years as a rat affected her mentally.
Alex: There is a suggestion in her very last appearance, in S7’s “The Killer in Me”, that she’s a baddie precisely because she feels abandoned by people who seemed to be her friends. That’s a really interesting idea that makes sense of her fictional autobiography – she’s set up as a potential friend, and then they ditch her – but it’s ever really explored.
The Season 8 comics attempted it to some extent, I think, although again there she’s tied to a plotline I’d rather not think about.
Imi: Even in the magic stuff, realistically she’s just a bit of a bad influence on Willow – and even that’s only from our perspective. Amy just thought she finally had a friend.
Tim: Given that her mum essentially died in Season 1 and she was capable of fooling people with her witchy powers, did she even have adult supervision for the rest of her high school years? No-one seemed to be looking for her during the Rat Years.
Alex: She’s a damaged person, who doesn’t get the treatment Buffy gives to most of its damaged characters. Poor Amy.
Imi: Similar to Robin Woof (yes I’m just steering into it now), Amy is someone I’d have liked to see and know more of. But this time, that’s not going up against a character whose storyline was perfect and done – Amy is facing someone who was perfect but cruelly ripped away from us too soon.
Alex: Argh. Friend of the blog Amy Garvey-Eckett is currently watching Buffy for the first time, and her husband Michael says he’s having a hard time seeing Tara start to pop up, knowing what he knows, in a ‘NO THERE’S NO REASON I’M CRYING, YOU’RE CRYING’ kind of way.
Tim: I think you both hit the nail on the head earlier – Tara is such a different type of character to the rest of the gang, and she really becomes an essential part of that mix, especially in Season 6, when everyone’s knee-deep in crises. And it’s so great to watch her gradually grow in confidence as the show goes on.
Alex: So, it looks like we’re going to do to Amy what the show, the Scooby Gang and the world did, and push her aside for someone better.
…Sorry, Amy (Madison, not Garvey-Eckett), but it’s the right choice. Please don’t take this too hard and turn into a supervillain.
WINNER: Tara Maclay
(33 appearances, debut: Buffy 1.2 “The Harvest”)
(9 appearances, debut: Angel 4.6 “Spin the Bottle”)
Alex: Look, I’m not even going to dignify this match-up with a response. Harmony is our bubbly vampire queen, The Beast is the worst baddie either show ever had.
Imi: Harmony calls Spike ‘blondie bear’ and survived the Graduation Day snake, assorted run-ins with the Scooby Gang and Angel Investigations, and the apocalypse at the end of Angel Season 5. The Beast is so dumb he created a weapon to kill himself, essentially doing the good guys’ job for them. I think we all know who would win in a fight.
Tim: The only thing The Beast is fit for is having his horns turned into a pair of high heels for Queen Harm.
Alex: Thank you, NEXT.
WINNER: Harmony Kendall
Next time on Chosen Ones: Springfield’s gothiest couple finally show up, alongside a kid, an old man and two vengeance demons.
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