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January 10 2013

Who was the best Buffy villain? Oracle of Film ranks the seven main antagonists.

I'd go with Glory since Buffy died that season. That was one of the few villains I was worried about Buffy. Though Angelus is a close second since he was more focused on torturing Buffy.
I don't 100% agree with their order. Personally I consider Adam to be the least interesting of the Big Bads. And Caleb? I love Nathan Fillion, but Caleb is pretty forgettable as Buffy Villains go. Its a tough call to choose a best, but Angelus is certainly in contention for that spot.
i think all the villians buffy has had to face are pretty smart and clever, with glory however it was more about sacrife than anything else.
let's look at season 8 (spoiler alert) Twilight who was Angel and who knows with season 9 other than the fact of the zombie vampires.

I would go with life as the best villian as i wanted more bad ass with Angelus, i mean Spike and Dru were way more evil too!
Willow was the big bad of S6, not the trio of idiots.
The mayor and caleb were my personal favourites. I really wish caleb had been a villain for the entirety of season 7, he was so much more menacing and fun to watch than the first, who eventually only appeared as buffy and became boring, I thought. Caleb was a perfect villain for buffy, her character was about female empowerment and his was about the hatred of that power, and the taking of it. The vinyard fight was incredible too, "i work in mysterious ways... Also some fairly straightforward ones." The mayor's only fault was all that build up and the confrontation was with a cgi snake rather than the actor himself who was far more entertaining. The turok han and gnarl were some of my other favourite villains, too. And spike in the first half of season 2, when he was a threat.
I find it strange that they did not mention the First Evil for season 7.

I'm with Thalassocracy on Adam as the least interesting Buffy big bad.

Oh well, might as well make the whole list:

1. Spike, Drusilla, Angelus (Season 2)
2. The Mayor and Faith (Season 3)
3. Andrew, Jonathan and Warren (Season 6)
4. The First Evil & Caleb (Season 7)
5. Glory (Season 5)
6. The Master (Season 1)
7. Adam (Season 4)
7) Adam
6) Trio/Willow
5) Master
4) Caleb/First
3) Mayor/Faith*
2) Angelus*
1) Glory

*Pretty much interchangeable.

But yeah, Adam was by far the worst villain.

Do we even consider the Trio villains? I wasn't really a fan of the Willow storyline in season 6, so no matter who the villain of that season is, they still rank sixth.

The rest of them are all pretty good, in my opinion.

I thought the Master was great, but I do agree with the author that his storyline is a bit uneven.

Caleb and the First were great, too. I know a lot of people don't really like season 7, but I loved it.

The Mayor and Angelus are pretty much even to me. Seasons 2, 3, and 5 are some of the best TV I've ever watched. I gave Angelus a slight edge because his story had more of a lasting impact on a personal level -- he was her lover and those are scars that can never really heal. The Mayor was just a big bad. Although Faith's part of that story has a decent impact, too. So it's tough.

And then Glory is my all-time favorite. That whole season is just fantastic.

If we're including Angel in this, though, I think the Darla storyline would rank right up there with Glory. The way they completely screwed Angel up by bringing her back, then how all of that led to the Connor story (which, while Connor as a character sucks, the story surrounding him is great)... just great. One of the best stories of the 'verse.


[ edited by jesse on 2013-01-10 13:24 ]
I suppose I would go: 1. Willow, 2. Angel, 3. Glory, 4. the Mayor, 5. the Master, 6. the First, 7. Adam. The Main Cast big bads have the biggest emotional and thematic resonance. Angel has the better set of episodes in terms of overall quality (Innocence, Passion, Becoming 1 & 2 -- IOHEFY is as good as those, but Angelus is less explicitly The Villain in that episode so I don't count it quite the same), but Willow remains sympathetic throughout in a way that Angelus (and the rest of the Big Bads) don't. Glory and the Mayor are the strongest of the non-regular Big Bads, and their rankings are somewhat interchangeable; I prefer Harry Groener's acting and presence and find the Mayor more entertaining, but I find Glory more interesting as a character and she hits more of my theme-interest buttons. The First gets most of its points from CWDP to be frank -- which is one extremely strong episode, which is one more than Adam gets, though I do still like him at times, especially in Who Are You (most things are better with Joss writing). I like the Master and I love Mark Metcalf in the role but he is given very little to do.

Interestingly, while Buffy accomplishes her seasonal goal of saving the world every season, she does not actually kill any of the last three Bads -- Giles takes out Glory (via Ben), Xander talks down Willow, and the First is unkillable. You could argue this is true of the Mayor as well, but it's still Buffy's plan for the Mayor to be blown up. Thematically, this is because Life Gets Harder as she grows up and things become less-clear cut; Glory's death is not achievable through heroic means the way the previous deaths were, Willow is one of Buffy's circle and a human and redeemable (and not, like Angel, someone who has to be "killed" to save the world) and the First is a conceptual/undefeatable creature. (The BB of season eight is [spoilers] Twilight-the-universe which similarly goes unkilled because of the nature of the, er, beast.) Survival rate: 2/7 (counting Angel's "death" in Becoming as one he didn't survive -- he came back, but not within the season, which is weird and hair-splitting but whatever, okay?).

Bonus: primary little bad ranking! I am including Ben as a little bad for season five because there are no other likely candidates (Glory's minions?), just for fun. I am defining "primary little bad" as (in my estimation) the second most significant season-long antagonist.

1. Faith, 2. Dru, 3. Warren, 4. Maggie Walsh, 5. Ben, 6. Caleb, 7. the Anointed One.

2-4 are all pretty close together, actually. Faith and Maggie Walsh are the two characters who have the honour of being more interesting/emotionally resonant than the respective Big Bads of those seasons. I am counting Dru instead of Spike because the season's structure has Spike down for the count by WML with Dru as the primary antagonist until Surprise, and she's still a Bad up to the end of the season, while Spike has switched sides. This is nerdy fun, okay. Survival rate: 3/7.

Notably, every single one of my defined little bads appears the day/night of the climactic battle/confrontation in the climactic episode of the season and is either dispatched or otherwise written out shortly before the bad is dispatched, though Maggie only appears in zombified form. The little bad choices are particularly subjective (I mean, who you choose as the little bads). I know one fan convincingly argues that Maggie Walsh is the Big Bad of season four in that it's her project that animates the season's end. Warren is the only guy who doesn't make it to the season-arc-climactic episode (the season finale in all cases except s4 where the ep in question is Primeval), though Maggie Walsh only appears in Primeval as a zombie. The only little bads Buffy herself dispatches are Faith and Caleb; the Anointed One simply walks away, Spike knocks out Dru, Riley takes out zombie-Maggie, Giles snuffs out Ben, and Willow flays Warren.

Bonus bonus ranking of tertiary bads: defined here as antagonists, in some cases a group, who were less of a direct threat than the Big and primary little bad.

1. Spike (s2), 2. Jonathan & Andrew, 3. Glory's minions, 4. the Initiative as institution, 5. Luke, Darla, other of Master's minions, 6. Trick, 7. Bringers & Ubervamps.

Of these, Spike and Jonathan explicitly throw their lot in with Buffy by the season's end (and Andrew does too sort of by default), as do some Initiative people (not just Riley, but Graham too -- once the demons get loose).

Darla would be higher if she had more to do and were more as she is in "Becoming" and AtS.

Comics-wise, I think season eight (spoilers) the BB would be Twilight the universe/entity, the primary little bad Angel, the tertiary bad the U.S. army. Ranking is difficult. The bads of A&F seem to be Pearl & Nash and Whistler, and the actual breakdown of which bad is the baddest is unknown. Season nine the BBs are seemingly Severin and Simone, and again it's unknown who would be #1 and who would be #2, or whether they are misleads.

AtS doesn't have Big Bads in the same way, but you could still assign Darla, Holtz, Jasmine and the Black Thorn to s2-5, in which case I'd rank them in exactly descending order (i.e. 1. Darla, 2. Holtz, 3. Jasmine, 4. Black Thorn) though I like all of them. A case could be made, if you were so inclined, that Connor is the true Big Bad of season four, in that he is the last adversary to be vanquished within the season, in Home, before Angel vanquishes him with fatherly brainwashing. Alternatively, the s2 BB could be taken as W&H or perhaps Holland (but Holland as representative of W&H) or Lindsey.

I would categorize the little bads as, sticking to individuals: s2: Lindsey, s3: Justine or Lilah, but probably Justine is more s3-specific, s4: the Beast (evil!Cordy *is* Jasmine), s5: Lindsey again. Ranking: 1. Lindsey (s2), 2. Justine, 3. Lindsey (s5), 4. The Beast. The tertiary bad for all seasons would be W&H; if we name a tertiary individual BB it'd be Lilah for s2-4, Eve for s5. Ranking at this point is pretty silly; Lilah would take up the top three slots in some order, probably s4,s3,s2.

Yes, I am nerdy.

[ edited by WilliamTheB on 2013-01-10 14:15 ]
Those are fun nerdy (in a good way) rankings WilliamTheB! What would you think of Harmony as a potential season 5 Little Bad?
Well first of all,I don't think the nerd tro's were the big bad in season 6.Willow was.They were the little bads IMO.

So I would rank it like this.From favorites/best to worst/least favorites and I'm including season 8-9 too.

Little bads

!)Spike & Dru
2)Mr.Trick/Faith(mostly for Faith)
4)Amy & Warren(season 8)
5)Maggie Walsh and The Initiative
6)The Annointed One
7)The Nerd Trio

Season 5 and 9 didn't/don't really have a little bad.

Big Bads

2)The Mayor
4)Twilight(weird since it's also Angel)
5)Dark Willow(could of been handled better)
6)The Master
7)The First Evil
9)Severin and Simone(so far)
Technically, the big bad of Season 6 was 'life itself' according to Joss Whedon.
The Mayor is my favorite villain. He had such magnetism on screen. I can't think of a scene he was in that he didn't steal.
I am a bit dismayed at all the hate for Adam. Personaly, I love him becasue he is the perfect example of what we all try to do when we first leave the house: be everything and know everything. He believes he knows all and that is because he is made up of so many parts. We leave the nest, and we all belive that we can acheive what others could never before by stretching ourselves in much the same way. None of this is possible however as when we try to do and be it all we fall. Nobody can do it all and in the end Adam is killed when his core is annihilated showing that really he is only one thing just as we are only really ourselves no matter how many things we think we can encompass. This fits thematically in that all the scoobies are trying to find out what that one thing that is within themselves and they can not so early in their development and must rely on each other building their own everything thus causing the first slayer to come and finish the season out showing that no matter how close, we are all separate and we all have separate paths, dreams, and ultimately, deaths.
Mayor Wilkins is at the top of my list, no doubt about it.
There's just no love for Rack, is there?
The Gorches! Short-lived but irresistable fun.

As far as lead villains go, I never found The Master particularly frightening; he served his purpose. Adam? No.

If Spike had remained evil all the way through the series, it would be him for me, hands down. Then Angelus. I also think Ted (so brilliantly done by the late John Ritter) was another short-lived effective villain.
As far as Big Bads go, Mayor Wilkins and Glory top off my list. If we are talking villains in general, I definitely enjoyed the Gentlemen more than any other lesser villains (except for Vamp Wiilow!).
I've always had a soft spot for the Master. Others were better, but he helped pave the way. He killed Buffy twice (well, the second time was mirror-Buffy). Despite what the author said, Buffy was dead that first time, so checking her pulse would have done nothing.

Buffy defied conventions by having the blond girl in the dark alley stalking the monsters. The Master contributed, by having a classical-looking vampire talking so much snark (instead of the traditional "blah blah, I'm an evil vampire" that would have been boring). My favorite is probably when the Master tells his minion that he has something in his eye.

2nd season should be the trio of "Angelus-Spike-Dru", it wasn't a one-vamp act.
I bow to no one in my love for Mayor Wilkins, but to me, the best villains are the ones that really hurt our heroes. We have to really hate them. I don't hate Wilkins. He's too damned entertaining. For out-and-out villainy, I have to go with Warren and (switching shows) Holtz. Their evil is mundane and human, not the epic destroying-the-world variety, and I think that makes it more visceral.

Special recognition also goes to Doc, who hurt the Scoobies more than just about anyone else ever.
This made me laugh: In the role of Caleb was Whedon regular, Nathan Fillion, an actor who doesn’t get enough work.

Doesn't he have his own TV show?
I'm torn between Angelus and Glory for the #1. I found Angelus to be scarier and more unsettling on a personal level, although Glory posed the greatest threat and raised the stakes enormously. The Mayor has to be my #3...
The Groosalugg: Harmony could work...and yet, Real Me is the only episode where she's really being her own Bad; in OOMM she is second fiddle to Spike. I think maybe the thing is, all the Little Bads as defined do have some kind of connection to the Big Bad/main story arc (even if it's indirect, like Warren contributing to Willow's flame-out by pushing her to it). Harmony is so far removed from the central drama of the season that I just can't quite see her in Little Bad territory.

Actually, maybe instead of Ben it should be the Knights of Byzantium, headed by Gregor, or Doc, who qualify as the Little Bad or Tertiary Bad -- since they were closely involved in the story and antagonists w.r.t. Buffy; and I am thinking of Bad status as being about antagonism toward the main cast rather than objective evilness.

It is noteworthy though that Rack is, like Warren, pretty closely associated with Willow's flameout so he is a potential Little Bad.

Libradude: True. And Willow tries, heroically, to defeat the Big Bad by killing it! That life itself is the Big Bad actually explains a lot of why thematically, Willow (it didn't have to be Willow, though she is, with the POSSIBLE exception of Buffy herself, the best-positioned to do it) has to nearly end life. Because, you know, for five seasons, the Scoobies fight and kill the Big Bad, and it's really hard not to apply that same logic when the seasonal Big Bad presents itself as clearly as it does to Willow once she feels the world's pain.

tikamajere316: I very much like what you've written about Adam. I do think that Adam serves those thematic purposes -- or, well, similar ones; I hadn't thought about it quite the way you articulate it, but he is definitely a symbol of total independence, total self-sufficiency, in a season where the Scoobies try to "go it alone" excited by their total freedom and find themselves unable to work without each other. In fact, I find the idea of Adam more interesting than the idea of the Mayor or (certainly) the idea of the Master. Wilkins' relationship with Faith is great, but the central idea behind him -- the oppressive paternalistic authority figure, couched in banal pleasantries to hide naked ambition -- is neither as relevant to what the gang are going through emotionally in season three nor as, well, interesting. And yet! Wilkins and the Master, because they have connections to other characters, feel more like characters than symbols, whereas Adam just feels like a symbol to me -- and thus less engaging dramatically. But! Your mileage may vary.
I put some comments over there; I think the Mayor is seriously undervalued in this and might re-post here.

The Groosalug, William the B: Harmony specifically in "Real Me" stands as something Joss does once in a while, presenting the Seasonal Big Bad in miniature form. The Harmony this one time & GLory similarites are obvious, and in S-3 Gwendolyn Post Mrs. is the MAyor in miniature; giving up (well, that's how it seems) any chance of a normal life (through a radical change of appearance) in order to gain enormous power. Joss might do that elsewhere.

LibraDude, William the B: Hmm, DarkWillow seeking to "slay" the real Big Bad, neat idea.
I'm fascinated by all the different criteria people have used to choose which Big Bad they consider to be the best - the scariest, the most powerful, the most likeable, the one that had the biggest personal impact on the heroes...etc. It's also interesting how, for what seems like quite a simple formula of having a villain who'll be defeated at the end of each season, there's still a lot of debate about who or what the Big Bad of some seasons is.

For me, the best Big Bads are The Mayor and Dark Willow, because I find both of them extremely sympathetic even while they're trying to kill everyone. Indeed, for the first half an hour or so of Graduation Day Part 2, The Mayor is the character I most identify and sympathise with because of his grief over Faith. I think I’d give the ultimate edge to Dark Willow though, because she doesn’t then kind of blow the sympathy by turning into a corny snake-monster – I also love the way Dark Willow is actually ‘defeated’ by sympathy and kindness, and that the solution comes so much from the history of the characters.

Third would have to be Angelus. I know a lot of people think he’s the best Big Bad, and I do acknowledge the devastating emotional impact he has on Buffy and the other characters (including, let’s not forget, Spike), but the fact I never have any sympathy for him puts him slightly below The Mayor and Willow for me. I do think he’s probably the scariest and most disturbing villain though, because his arrival is such an unexpected betrayal and cuts so close to the bone.

I find the Big Bads of Seasons 1, 4, 5 and 7 a lot less interesting, because they seem more like stock villains and never really have much of an emotional impact. I do agree with those who’ve said Adam is underrated though – the execution isn’t quite there, but I think he’s an interesting concept and does have some good scenes. The Master is entertaining, but again he doesn’t have a great deal of depth and is heavily reliant on other people doing his bidding for him.

I go back and forth on Glory – sometimes she has a genuine sense of menace, and sometimes she’s quite amusing and charismatic in a way that’s rather refreshing after a season of Adam, but a lot of the time those two features cancel each other out and she simply ends up being a bit dull and inactive. There are big stretches of Season 5 where Glory doesn’t really do anything, her weakness means that in the end she’s easily killed by Giles (not that it isn’t a great scene!), and Buffy having to sacrifice herself to close the portal is ultimately a side-effect of Glory’s plan rather than anything the Big Bad intended. With all the other stuff going on that season, I just don’t find Glory particularly memorable, despite her physical power.

My least preferred Big Bad is definitely The First Evil though – another villain that talked a lot about its fiendish plans, but ended up being fairly impotent and getting other people to do its bidding all the time (which I suppose was a fairly impressive power, but somehow it just started to feel dull and repetitive). I've always felt that The First Evil could have been a great, psychological villain, and things seemed to be heading that way after Conversations with Dead People, but ultimately it never seemed to go anywhere and the season mostly got sidetracked by the Potentials and Spike's trigger instead.

Even some of the Big Bads that are comparatively weak as characters are quite interesting on a symbolic, conceptual level though, and end up being more than the sum of their parts for the way they intersect with the seasons’ main themes.

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