Buffy the Vampire Slayer Retrospective (11): They Will Always Save Us [Team Slayer]

Author’s Note:  Enjoy this second of three parts featuring the various characters that make up the Buffy-verse. Our favorite villains from the series will be Part Three, and a final wrap-up post featuring all of the minor characters: good, bad, and neutral.

In the first part of this look-back at the diverse and large group of characters that make up the Buffy-verse, I wrote an ode to my favorite character: Faith Lehane. She’s one of the few characters on the show that was able to encompass both the good and bad parts of her psyche, but in the end she conquered her demons and stood besides her fellow sister Slayer, Buffy Summers. Faith’s road to redemption is a long journey, but one that she is facing with a sense of calmness and understanding of her previous actions. She has had help on this journey courtesy of Angel, who has also been seeking redemption on his own for years as well.

In this second of a three-part series on the characters of one of my favorite TV shows, I’m taking a look at the awesome characters from the Buffy-verse with an emphasis on the members of Team Slayer: Buffy and her friends, family, and allies. Not all of the good guys are featured, but mainly I’ve covered the major ones that have played significant roles in the series, including minor characters who have shown up in more than three episodes. Let’s take out our pom-poms and cheer for Team Slayer! Be prepared to see some future edits because I have a feeling a few slipped through my memory, and I apologize ahead of time for that.

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The Scooby Gang first drew me into their supernatural world full of horrifying demons, scary vampires, and menacing “Big Bads” (the main villain/s of each season) with their sarcasm, their humor, their strength, and especially their strong bonds with each other. A hero(ine) gains their strength from their army, and Buffy definitely has a great team always standing beside her. Team Slayer has accomplished a lot, and they deserve their place in television history for saving the world more times than we can count. They aren’t just friends to Buffy – they are as much family to her as her own blood relatives, and this strong connection that she shares with them has helped her through many a difficult situation that she has encountered in all seven seasons of the show.

What made Buffy the Vampire Slayer connect with so many fans when the show first aired was the fact that they were high schoolers, and many of us growing up at that time were the same age as them, the Scooby Gang. High school can be a torturous time for many teenagers who have to navigate through bullies, mean teachers, and trying to survive long enough to make it into college. Watching Buffy, Willow, and Xander – along with their many friends – navigate through high school while avoiding certain death from many horrible, nasty meanies and dealing with teenage issues spoke to a lot of us who were teens at the time.

Though Buffy had a lot of people who had her back and helped her out tremendously, there were times when she felt like the only person in the world with her powers. She didn’t have any other fellow Slayers that could help her understand her role as the Chosen One, and when she did find Slayers, bad things would happen to them (Kendra died in Season Two, Faith turned to the darkside halfway through Season Three, and the Potentials in Season Seven). When she was at one of her lowest points (Season Two’s “Becoming Parts 1 & 2,” Season Three’s “Anne”), Buffy had no one. Her friends and family didn’t understand the pain she was going through, the loneliness, and having this huge responsibility solely lying upon her shoulders. She was the Slayer, she was meant to conquer evil, yet she was an army of one without a fellow soldier to understand her inner turmoil and frustrations. Also, killing the love of your life doesn’t help when you’re in the middle of a nervous breakdown.

As we all know, Buffy finally became the leader and Chosen One she was destined to be by the end of the series, commanding an army of young women who had gone from Potentials to full-blown Slayers. She led an army against the First Evil’s Turok-Han (uber-vampires) in the battle in the Hellmouth, and she and her friends and allies barely escaped with their lives. A lot of lives were lost in the battle of Good vs. Evil, and Buffy would never forget the fallen.

Each of the following characters all have a special place in my heart, as I am sure they have a special place in your hearts too. We hold these characters in high regard and love them for their faults and for their strengths, and I thank Joss Whedon and his fabulous team of writers for fully developing these characters and keeping them from becoming bland, cookie-cutter placeholders as they navigated through the complex storylines. Let me introduce you to Buffy and her Slayin’ family as we appreciate all of the awesome things Team Slayer has done for the world:

ADDITIONAL NOTE: I have the characters below canon through their storylines in the series. They do not follow their storylines in the ongoing graphic novel series – haven’t read all of them yet. Their “living or dead” statuses are also listed by each character name. There were a of casualties on Team Slayer’s side, but the core group lived to the end of the series. 

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The “Original” Scooby Gang

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Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) –> Alive

The heroine of our show and the Chosen One, she has saved the world (with the help of her friends) ten thousand times over. Through perseverance, Buffy conquered not only her personal demons, but the literal demons that threatened to eat humans and destroy our world. We owe Buffy a debt of gratitude for saving our asses from the many apocalypses that could have wiped us out. In the end, she stood tall with her Scooby Gang, her sister Dawn, and fellow sister Slayer Faith as they all stared at the crater that once held their town of Sunnydale, California. You rock, Buffy!

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Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan [Denisof]) -> Alive

Willow was one of Buffy’s best friends, and one hell of a witch too. Another lesson learned: never underestimate the cute, redheaded geeky gal because she could be a powerful witch who can kick your ass faster than you can open a book. Willow would later become one of the “Big Bads” of Season Six; the death of a loved one (her girlfriend, Tara Maclay) triggered the darkness within her, turning her into Dark Willow (think Dark Phoenix). Willow was able to redeem herself and cast a super-powerful spell using a powerful Scythe that had been passed down through the Slayer generations, using Buffy and Faith’s Slayer strength and sharing it will all of the potential Slayers in the world.

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Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) -> Alive

Xander is an integral part of the Scooby Gang, and a force to be reckoned with. He may not have the Slayer strength of Buffy or the magickal abilities of Willow and Giles, but his humanity grounded the Gang. A very trustworthy and strong friend who has felt “unwanted” or the “odd-man out” in the past (Season Three’s “The Zeppo,” Season Four’s “Fear, Itself”), Xander sacrificed a lot in the end and helped Buffy lead the Potentials into Slayerhood. Unfortunately, he lost an eye in a battle against “Big Bad” Caleb and had his on-off girlfriend/ex-fiancee Anya die in the battle at the Hellmouth. He survived the Hellmouth battle and stood with his best friends as they quietly celebrated their victory.

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Rupert Giles (Anthony [Stewart] Head) -> Alive

Giles was not only a Watcher to Buffy, but a father figure as well (her parents were divorced). Though he was mostly seen as a mousy librarian-type at the beginning of the series, Giles had a hidden past that included the vicious-sounding nickname “Ripper.” He was also not afraid to let that personality come out when it came to protecting his slayer (Season Five’s “The Body”). Giles and Buffy had their differences of opinion in several matters, but he would always stand and fight by her side, while protecting her as well. Come to think of it, he was a father-figure to those he stood watch over (the Scooby Gang, Dawn, etc.).

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Family Members

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Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland – Seasons 1-5) –> Deceased: Season 5

Buffy’s mother was a major part of the series when it first aired. Her sudden death was a shocking moment that floored many fans. She helped keep the Scooby Gang together and was a den mother to them, and also a romantic interest to Rupert Giles. Well, for one episode (“Band Candy”), but they did make a great couple. The most haunting episode of the series, “The Body,” showed how great of an impact her death had on her daughters and the Scooby Gang. We all know Buffy made her mom proud in the end, and I’m sure her mother was watching from wherever she was, looking down upon her with love. /cries

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Dawn Summers (Michelle Trachtenberg – Seasons 5-7) -> Alive

Dawn is Buffy’s sister but not her biological sister – more of a mystical sister. Huh? Before Season Four (and for most of her life), Buffy was an only child. Some monks created a human teenager from a source of magic called the Key. Putting the Key in human form was their insurance policy in keeping it away from a hell goddess named Glory. Buffy found out that her memories of Dawn were fabricated, but she grew to love her. Dawn grew into her own and became a valuable player in the Hellmouth battle.

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Former Scooby Gang Members

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Angel (David Boreanaz – Seasons 1-3) -> Alive

Oh Angel – you sexy brooding vampire. When we first meet him in Season One, he helps Buffy out whenever she found herself in a bind, but she barely knew anything about this mysterious hunk. There’s a reason for that – dude is a vampire! And a formerly brutal one at that! Buffy freaked out when she discovered Angel’s true nature, but fell in love with him regardless. As we all know, Angel turned back into Angelus in Season Two and thus became the “Big Bad,” along with Drusilla (Spike had a last-minute save in his favor). Angel came back into Buffy’s world, but their romance would still be ill-fated – Angel left at the end of Season Three and headed to Los Angeles to continue the good fight in the City of Angels.

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Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter – Season 1-3) –> Deceased: Died in Season 4 of Angel

Bitchy popular girl/cheerleader Cordelia was the least likely candidate for kick-ass individual. When it came to helping fight the forces of darkness, Cordy rose to the occasion. She dated Xander and became a pariah amongst her popular crowd (well, and hanging out with Buffy cemented that fate). Cordelia was a fun character to watch because she had some really funny lines in the series, though most of them were well-placed snark or sass at anyone who dared cross her path. One of my favorite Cordy-centric episodes is “Out of Sight, Out of Mind.” Cordelia would later join Angel and become an important person in his life, and a future love interest.

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Daniel “Oz” Osbourne (Seth Green – Seasons 2-3; made two appearances in Season 4) -> Alive

Cool, calm, mellow – these are just some of the many words used to describe resident werewolf Oz. I think we all have a friend who’s like Oz, and they’re the type of person that everyone is drawn to because they are good-hearted and relaxed by nature. Even though Oz was a werewolf, he was a conscientious one. When it came to his “time of the month,” he would lock himself up in the book cage in the Library, waiting for the night hours to pass so that he wouldn’t inadvertently harm anyone. Willow was his girlfriend and they were the cutest couple on the show (well, until Tara came along). Oz left temporarily to control his werewolf urges but came back to be with Willow. Willow had already moved on with a young woman named Tara, and Oz’s werewolf came out again. Oz had to leave yet again to try and control his inner werewolf so that he wouldn’t harm his friends or loved ones.

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Jenny Calendar (Robia LaMorte – Seasons 1-2) –> Deceased: Season 2

Jenny Calendar was a computer instructor at Sunnydale High who also moonlighted as a technopagan. She also had her own secrets that would later have devastating consequences. Jenny was a member of the Romanian Kalderash clan who shared a past with Angelus. He killed a member of their clan and a clan elder cast a spell on him, forcing his soul to re-enter his body. The curse did have one fault: it could be broken if Angel had one night of passion with his “true love.” Buffy and Angel made love on her 17th birthday, breaking the curse. Feeling betrayed by Jenny’s secret, Giles and the rest of the Scooby Gang shunned her. Jenny was able to create a program to translate the original curse, and she had just completed the translation on the night that Angelus paid her a visit in the episode “Passion.” Jenny didn’t have a chance to tell anyone about her triumph before Angelus killed her. Willow would later discover the disk and perform the curse (twice).

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Anya/Anyanka (Emma Caulfield – Seasons 3-7) –> Deceased: Season Seven

Anya, Anya, Anya. Every show has to have that sassy and brutally honest person that doesn’t spare words when it comes to revealing the truth about anything and everything. Anya is one of my favorite characters and I’m still a little mad that she didn’t make it to the end. Anya makes her first appearance as Anyanka, a vengeance demon who answers Cordelia’s wish about Buffy never making it to Sunnydale. After her identity is discovered, Anyanka’s amulet is destroyed and she reverts back to a teenaged woman – talk about punishment. With her years of knowledge, Anya was able to shed some light on Mayor Wilkins’ ascension at the end of Season Three. She later began a relationship with Xander and helped out the Scooby Gang, becoming a full-fledged member. Sadly, she didn’t make it to the end of the series, but she certainly left a last impression.

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Riley Finn (Marc Blucas – Seasons 4-6; left halfway through Season 6) -> Alive

There are few characters in our fandom that have divided fans quite like this former member of the Initiative and ex-boyfriend to our Slayer. Fans love him or hate him, but I don’t mind the guy at all. Riley was an important part of the Scooby Gang for a few seasons before he turned a bit dark and disappeared from the series. He went AWOL from the Initiative after finding out what their true purpose was (the research and development of new bio-mechanical monstrosities combining demon/human/machine), and aligned himself with Buffy and the rest of the Scooby Gang as they fought Season Four’s Big Bad,” Adam. While their relationship remained strong for a while, in the end he and Buffy grew apart and eventually ended their relationship.

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Tara Maclay (Amber Benson – Seasons 4-6) –> Deceased: Season Six

Tara is another character that fans were divided on, but a lot of us loved her. She had many strong traits: powerful, kind-hearted, caring, and full of love for her girlfriend and her friends. Her first appearance on the show was in the groundbreaking episode “Hush.” She was a fellow Wiccan in a group that also included Willow. Their first magickal connection came when they needed to barricade a door against the Gentlemen and their minions, and after they linked hands they felt an instant connection. That connection would later turn into feelings for one another, becoming one of the few gay couples on TV at the time. They were also my favorite couple (my Buffy OTP canon couple; my fanon is Fuffy). Willow’s growing addiction to magick would eventually lead to their break-up. Willow and Tara were able to rekindle their relationship for a few blissful hours before Tara’s death at the hands of Warren, part of the Nerds of Doom in Season Six. Her death devastated Willow, turning her into Dark Willow.

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Spike (James Marsters – Seasons 4-7) –> Alive; was deceased but return to life on Angel

Spike – how I love thee. Spike was originally one of the “Big Bads” of Season Two, arriving in Sunnydale with then-girlfriend Drusilla (my Spike OTP), ready to cause chaos and destruction and kill Buffy along the way. He was thwarted from his efforts countless times by Buffy, but his feelings for her would later start to grow at the end of Season Four as we headed into Season Five. He and Buffy eventually got into a chaotic, crazed, loving, passionate relationship. He became an invaluable member to the Scooby Gang after the Initiative (the secret military group from Season Four). When it came to the final battle at the Sunnydale Hellmouth, he sacrificed himself and saved many Slayer lives (he wore an amulet the Powers That Be had destined for one of their Champions). Though he died on Buffy, he was resurrected on Angel.

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Andrew Wells (Tom Lenk – Season 7) -> Alive

Formerly one of the original “Big Bads” of Season Six (the Nerds of Doom), before Dark Willow took over that title, Andrew was a reluctant addition into the Scooby Gang. More like a former evil villain kidnapped and made to play nice with the heroes. Though he could be annoying at times, he did provide some much-needed comic relief amongst the darkness that touched the storyline of Buffy’s last season. He stood up and became a hero in the final episode “Chosen,” fighting alongside Anya as they took down Bringers. Anya saved him before she was killed, and he would always be forever grateful for her act of selflessness, though the knowledge that she died for him would always weigh heavily on him. He continued on with the Scooby Gang in the comic series.

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Robin Wood (D.B. Woodside – Season 7) -> Alive

The son of Slayer Nikki Wood, Robin Wood was also the principal of the newly-rebuilt Sunnydale High. He helped Buffy regain some confidence as he asked her to become a school counselor, and he and Buffy shared a good rapport with one another. Robin, like many of the characters on the show, had many secrets of his own. One of the biggest? He was there the night Spike killed his mother, making her his second Slayer kill. Robin would never forget that moment because he was just a young child when it happened, and he swore vengeance against Spike. He and Spike eventually had a confrontation, but Buffy interfered and warned him to not pull any more crap again. Robin became a valuable member of the Scooby Gang, and he even had a love interest at the end of the series: Faith. He suffered a serious wound in the battle at the Hellmouth, but later survived his injury. In the comic series he and Faith part ways, but it was for the better.

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Fellow Slayers

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Kendra Young (Bianca Lawson – Season 2) –> Deceased: Season 2

Kendra was a no-nonsense Jamaican Slayer that was called by The Powers That Be (TPTB) after Buffy technically died at the hands of The Master, Season One’s “Big Bad.” Kendra was a strictly-disciplined Slayer in comparison to Buffy’s training wheels-style, and though both women would butt heads occasionally, they also complimented each other. Sadly for Kendra, she didn’t last long on the series after she met the business end of Drusilla’s nails in “Becoming, Part 1.” Poor Bianca Lawson can’t catch a break between Buffy and Pretty Little Liars when it comes to good characters being killed off. Kendra’s death also marked Drusilla’s first Slayer kill – a fact that Spike was quite proud of until Buffy threatened to kill her.

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Faith Lehane (Eliza Dushku – Seasons 3-4, Season 7) -> Alive

Jump back a post and read all about my Favorite Character (yes, that title has been bestowed upon her). Friend, former friend, frenemy, enemy, arch-nemesis, acquaintance, somewhat friend, but above all a sister Slayer to Buffy. A very fun character to watch as well (along with Anya and Spike). She came so close to gaining her own series, but those plans slowly disappeared after Eliza accepted a role on Tru Calling. A Faith series would have been so awesome, and probably on a cable network just for the profanity and sexual content. Heh heh…

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The Potentials (Felicia Day, Iyari Limon, Sarah Hagan, Indigo, etc. – Season 7) –> Multiple Deaths

Young women who were forced to face their destiny before they became of age. These Slayers-in-training were no match for the First’s Turok-han vampires at first when they encountered the uber-vampires while patrolling with Buffy or fighting for their lives against the Bringers. A very beneficial and powerful spell courtesy of Willow, as well as an awesome pep talk from Buffy, helped turned these Potentials into full-blown Slayers. They shared Buffy and Faith’s strength, stamina, and powers, and were able to help our sister Slayers defeat many a Turok-han in the final battle in Sunnydale’s Hellmouth. Special note: Potential Kennedy later became Willow’s girlfriend, helping her finally move on from Tara (though Tara would always have a special place in her heart).

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