I’ve had fun re-watching and writing about the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Now that I have finished watching the season my impression is that it is generally underrated. There have been calls from many critics to skip Season 1 altogether. But in my opinion the season sets the scene and tone for the show as a whole. It also references coming conflicts and develops the shows core themes.
Before I move on to Season 2, I am pausing to consider some of the often overlooked recurring characters introduced in Season 1.
Spoilers are of course, inevitable.
I am not talking about the core characters who make up the Scoobies, or even the peripheral core characters like Cordelia and Joyce. I’m also not talking about one scene teachers, or the Pack kids who are mysteriously never seen again. To make this list the character must have appeared in at least two episodes, and preferably more. I’ve selected characters who have made a significant impact on Buffy and the Buffyverse.
Just for fun, I’m ranking them in order from my least favourite to the best minor recurring characters introduced in Season 1.
Number 9 – The Anointed One
Grr Arghhh, I’ve not got much to say about the Annoying One. The young boy Collin became a vampire in Never Kill a Boy on the First Date. He hung around being annoying until Spike got rid of him in Season 2’s School Hard. He was annoying! Nuff said. I’m also not going to mention Luke, because he was just too annoying.
From here on in, none are as annoying…
Number 8 – Jesse McNally
Jesse has significance only because of how quickly he was established and then dispatched. This was a neat touch of Whedon’s to introduce a character that looked like he would be part of the group, only to get rid of him in the second episode. He appeared in only two episodes, Welcome to the Hellmouth and The Harvest. He did have an impact on the characters. Most significantly, Jesse’s death established Xander’s strong hatred of vampires. However, Jesse’s impact goes oddly unremarked again for the rest of the TV show’s seven seasons.
Number 7 – Dr Gregory
Dr Gregory also only appeared in two episodes (The Witch and Teacher’s Pet). He is therefore at 7 and not higher on the list. But he makes the list for being a stand up guy. He only appeared briefly; but he was memorable and significant due to his belief in Buffy. At a time when she was floundering in her school work he surprises Buffy by having confidence in her abilities and predicting she will excel. His death comes soon after and he is never seen again (apart from as a headless body found by Cordelia). Sigh.
Number 6 – Principal Flutie
Principal Flutie was just so huggable wasn’t he? But not real hugs of course.
“I’m always here if you need a hug – but not a real hug, there’s no touching in this school, we’re sensitive to wrong touching.”
The first Principal of Sunydale High during the show was an endearing character. Often it seemed that he could not decide between a firm or soft approach with the school students. His generous, kind and heartfelt approach is the side that warms our heart and makes him most memorable. That and the fact that he was horribly eaten by students possessed by hyenas. Although he didn’t recur after his appearance in four episodes of Season 1; he was memorable for his sweetness. This set up a comparison to the always harsh and never woolly Principal Snyder. Flutie’s demise was also remarked on by the next two Principals of Sunnydale High, showing he had a lasting legacy.
Number 5 – Principal Snyder
Armin Shimmerman’s performance as Principal Snyder was delightfully creepy. Right from his first appearance in The Puppet Show we get the feeling that something is a bit off with him. He’s determined to make life difficult for Buffy. It becomes clear later in Season 2 that he is aware of supernatural goings on in Sunnydale and is desperate to cover them up. His allegiances with powerful forces of Sunnydale eventually become clear, setting up for the big bad of Season 3. And of course despite his intention of being nothing like Principal Flutie, he too gets eaten.
Number 4 – Amy Madison
Her first appearance in The Witch characterises Amy as a vulnerable victim of her mother’s ambition and witchcraft. Later she too becomes drawn to witchcraft and is an influence on Willow’s interest in magic. She falls foul of her own spell and becomes a rat from season 3 to 6, with a brief reappearance in human form in season 4. Finally Amy becomes as wicked and ambitious as her Mom and is truly menacing in her appearance in season 7. Amy also appears in the Buffy comics. What’s great about the recurring appearances of Amy is that she is left out of the show for long periods. Her infrequent returns is a reward to long-term viewers who remember her from many episodes ago.
Number 3 – The Master
The first season’s big bad was classic bad guy. Seemingly indestructible he lurked below the town’s surface until Buffy took the fight to him. He stands out among Buffy’s vampires for having a permanent vamp face. His look is reminiscent of the classic film vampire Nosferatu. He recurs again in Season 2 when Buffy has still not recovered from the trauma he inflicted on her before she killed him. He has further reappearances in Season 3 of Buffy in an alternative reality, and in Season 7 when The First takes on his image. He appears in several flashback scenes in Angel the series. He also makes a comeback in both Buffy and Angel comics. It seems that despite being killed in Season 1, The Master is too good a villain to ever be done taunting our heroes.
Number 2 – Darla
Close to the top of my favourites on this list, Darla is the first female character and first vampire to appear on-screen in Buffy in the very first episode. Her reveal as a vampire famously turns the table on the naive girly victim cliché of the horror genre. She would have been killed off earlier in the series than she was, had she not quickly became a fan favourite. The character was further developed and a strong link created between Angel and Darla. This meant that despite her death at his hands in Season 1’s episode Angel, Darla was able to reappear in flashbacks on Buffy and in Angel the series. Season 1 strongly sets up the relationships between the vampire family line extending through Angel, Darla and her sire The Master.
Number 1 – Jenny Calendar
Oh Jenny. Jenny was one of many characters who we loved and lost on Buffy. She was a likeable and interesting character who grew on me from the time she appeared as the snarky Techno Pagan computing teacher in Season 1’s I Robot… You Jane. She became part of the gang and helped out in many supernatural crises. Jenny grew on Giles too, and their relationship looked set to bloom. Then she apparently betrayed Buffy, when she was doing what she felt was best. Eventually Giles forgave her. Then she was horribly killed by Angelus in the most heartbreaking way. Jossssss! Nooooooo!
She’s top of the list because every time I watch her last scene I am willing her to run faster and get away. And every time my heart is broken afresh! Now that’s something for me to look forward to when I get to my Season 2 re-watch…
So, did I miss any recurring minor characters introduced in Season 1? Did I miss any of your favourites? Let me know in the comments below.