Villains have two distinct classifications in Buffy the Vampire Slayer; they’re either Big Bads with no redeeming qualities, like the First or Glory, or they’re the kind of monsters who eventually find redemption, like Angel and Spike. Angel began as an archetypal lone-wolf hero, a vampire with a soul whose dark past as the homicidal maniac Angelus haunted his memories, while Spike began as a two-bit villain whose future in the series allowed him to change his violent destiny.
What makes Angel and Spike particularly dangerous villains then, is their influence on the series’ central character — the Slayer. Their respective holds on her, in drastically different ways, allow them to manipulate her to a degree that her loved ones, and indeed the whole of Sunnydale can be placed in harm’s way. Taking into account their nuance, their capacity for destruction, and their sanguinary past, who is the greater villain in Buffy the Vampire Slayer?
10 Angel: He went on homicidal rampages for centuries
As Angelus, Angel was behind several historical massacres across Europe, ripping jugulars and sucking humans dry with his brood including Darla, Drusilla, and Spike. The acquisition of a soul and the corresponding guilt from his victims was the only thing that stopped his endless cycle of bloodshed.
Whenever his brutal vampiric form reappears, such as after physical intimacy with Buffy, Angelus becomes one of the most dangerous creatures of the night the Scoobies have ever encountered. Because he’s older and more cunning with his brutality, he’s worse than the younger and more impulsive Spike.
9 Spike: He followed Angelus on a killing spree for years
Angelus sired Drusilla, who in turn sired William the Bloody/Spike, making Angelus Spike’s grandfather and ultimately the elder of their vampire brood. Spike took direction from Angelus, and any depraved activity Angelus participated in, Spike was right there beside him.
Spike proved a violent deviant every bit as unpredictable as Angelus, and wouldn’t stand in the way of his leader’s torturous depravity, ensuring that hundreds of people were hurt at the hands of the two vampires. As Angel told Buffy and the Scoobies in “School Hard,” Spike “doesn’t stop until everything in his path is dead.”
8 Angel: He broke Buffy’s heart
Buffy and Angel have a bond that almost transcends space and time, with the sort of soul-crushing depth of emotion that only vampires and their human lovers seem capable of. Angelus, on the other hand, did numerous things to strain his connection with the Slayer, including mocking her after their first night of intimacy.
Angel knows he can never be with Buffy because of the destructive nature of their relationship, but that doesn’t stop him from dangling his affections in front of her from time to time. Even after he left her to go to Los Angeles, he appeared back in Sunnydale in Season 4 and again in Season 7, knowing it would be incredibly difficult for Buffy to see him.
7 Spike: He tried to drain Sunnydale
When Spike made his debut appearance in the series in Season 2’s episode “School Hard,” he did so with a plan to drain Sunnydale. He didn’t count on the Slayer and the Scooby Gang, and certainly didn’t expect Angel to be advising them about his habits.
Spike chooses the high school’s parent-teacher conference night for his official coming out party, where he battles and nearly kills Buffy, until her mother intervenes with a blow to his head. He flees, but vows revenge on all involved.
6 Angel: He killed Jenny Calendar
As Angelus, Angel murdered Jenny Calendar, a computer science teacher at Sunnydale High and the girlfriend of Rupert Giles. She was discovered to be a member of Kalderash, the Romani clan who cursed Angelus with a soul centuries before.
This brutal attack devastated Giles, and nearly got him killed as well when he tried to take revenge on Angelus. Luckily Buffy intervened, but Angel’s path of destruction had been vast, as shown in “Amends.”
5 Spike: He tried to kill Buffy numerous times
Beginning with his first appearance, when Spike was intent on killing the Slayer, and has actively tried to accomplish the task several different times. Were it not for the chip implanted into his head by the Initiative in Season 4, he may very well have succeeded.
Eventually, Buffy concedes that Spike is relatively harmless, like a neutered animal, but when given free range without his chip, he reverts back to his bloodthirsty ways.
4 Angel: He made Buffy change herself
One of the most insidious ways that Angel’s villainy appeared was reflected in how much Buffy changed when she was around him. He was over 200 years old and smitten by a high school student, and she sacrificed a certain degree of agency and autonomy to be with him despite the dangers.
She was prepared to build a life around him, until her mother stepped in and informed Angel that he would need to leave because it was the only way that Buffy could have a happy life and the world could have its Slayer.
3 Spike: He assaulted Buffy
One of the most chilling episodes of the series arrives in Season 6 when Spike forces himself on Buffy in her bathroom, unable to accept that she wants to break off their unhealthy relationship. The means to which he shatters her trust are both pathetic and vile.
The subject matter of the episode “Seeing Red” is depicted as rightfully horrific, but it cements Spike as capable of the most despicable of actions against someone he supposedly cared about.
2 Angel: He doomed Los Angeles
While it pertains more to Angel than to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel left the latter to focus on the former, and so his characterization continued to a greater degree there. By the end of the series, he brought about apocalyptic levels of catastrophe in Los Angeles, to the point where it was unclear whether or not the city would survive.
Angel waged war against forces of darkness much worse than himself, and in many ways his hubris and audacity contributed to the fall of Wolfram & Hart and the greater Los Angeles community.
1 Winner: Angel
Angel may not have appeared on the series as long as Spike, but the impact of his depravity as Angelus can’t be denied. Spike grew into an antihero and an equal to Buffy, who was responsible for bringing out more complex sides of her than Angel’s character was capable of. Angel not only had a past soaked in blood, but his modern persona was manipulative and selfish.
He purported to care about Buffy to conceal his own self-serving behavior and made her pain about him. He continuously stole her agency and threatened to derail her purpose on more than one occasion. By comparison, Spike’s antics were at most annoying and abrasive, while Angel’s were lasting and impacting. Because of how much Buffy cared about him, he could hurt her and those she loved the most. Being able to affect the Slayer, whose fortitude is responsible for protecting the world from vampires like him, makes him perhaps the most villainous of all.
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