Ever since Joss Whedon’s iconic series about a valley girl turned supernatural-battling warrior ended in 2003, Buffy the Vampire Slayer has not only become a sacred classic to its fans both old and new, but it has also led to scholarly analysis, academic courses, and even grief for those who finish the series and mourn it’s loss. One great thing that we fans will never get enough of is ranking any and all aspects of the show in tier-rankings. Of all the rankings out there, ranking the Big Bad (season antagonist) of each season is the most fun, and Buffy’s best quotes comes in second. In each of the show’s seven season’s there were some memorable season-long villains, and even one unexpected twist in season 6, when fan favorite Willow tipped over into the dark side. But only five truly stand out–the less said about Adam and the First Evil, the better.
Season 5: Glory/Glorificus
Taking the top slot is without a doubt Glory from season 5. Glory first appeared at the end of the season’s fifth episode as a glamorous young woman who just so happened to have super human strength above and beyond what Buffy possessed. As the season progresses, we learn that Glory is really Glorificus, an ancient deity who long reigned over a hell dimension within the show’s multiverse-filled mythology. Clare Kramer plays Glory, and her yin and yang rapport with Sarah Michelle Gellar is part of what makes her character so memorable. Rather it is her display of extraordinary strength, her perfectly timed, vicious quips, or her down right insane fits of rage, Glory still manages to blur the lines between hate her/love her to this day. Scene for scene, fight for fight, she is also the most challenging Big Bad Buffy ever faced, which is not surprising seeing as how she was a deity after all.
Season 2: Angelus
Honestly, you can flip a coin between Glory and Angelus and either side that comes up is fine for the first spot. Angelus was the dark and primal side of the vampire Angel that was unleashed if he ever fell in love, and dark is putting it mildly. In season 1 and most of season 2, we watch Buffy and Angel flirt with one another, yet we are left puzzled as to why Angel will not break down and commit to Buffy; in season 2, episode 14, we learn that his soul was actually a curse placed upon him by a Romanian tribe in 1898 to curb his psychopathic impulses. The curse of the soul was the stipulation that if he ever experienced love, he would once again turn into the savage and sadistic Angelus that made him notorious within the vampire community. Once turned into Angelus, we watch as he taunts, torments, manipulates, and psychologically tortures Buffy and her friends, even killing Ms. Calendar in a shocking scene where he snaps her neck just to make Giles feel the pain of grief. When it comes to the most sadistic Big Bad, Angelus reigns supreme.
Season 3: The Mayor
Mayor Richard Wilkins was by far the most unique of Buffy’s Big Bads. The Mayor of Sunnydale was charming, folksy, and had all the makings of what seemed like a run-of-the-mill, middle-aged family man, until it is revealed he wants to become a gigantic snake through a process known as the ascension. Faith, the Vampire Slayer was arguably a co-Big Bad of season 3, but we start to feel for her once we realize that the Mayor is essentially preying on her emotional weaknesses since she never had a loving family. The Mayor was evil, that much is true, but he is far from the most notorious and fearful of the show’s main villains. But it’s his corny charm and matter-of-fact Leave it To Beaver demeanor–while he aspires to become a destructive titan hell bent on destroying the world–that makes him so memorable.
Season 6: Dark Willow
Buffy’s 6th season was certainly the darkest and most serious the show provided. Taking place immediately after Buffy is resurrected from the dead–complete with literally having to claw her way out of her grave–the season takes a sharp detour from the mostly upbeat previous seasons. In the season, Buffy must struggle to reacquaint herself with being alive as she takes on menial, dead-end jobs to pay the bills, and starts sleeping with Spike, a character she loathed prior to this season. It’s not just Buffy battling depression and young adult angst this season, the entire cast stays down in the dumps with her, including Willow, who becomes addicted to magic in a metaphor for drug addiction (Buffy was big on metaphors). In what is arguably the series’ darkest episode, “Seeing Red,” Willow reunites with her love interest Tara only to lose her in a violent murder by episode’s end. The rage and grief overwhelms her, and she absorbs as much dark magic as she can in a violent fury. Dark Willow is a bit unsettling, simply because it is really Willow who has decided to overdose on her power fueled by grief. Her reign of destruction spans only the final 3 episodes of the season, but Alyson Hannigan turns in her best work to date with the role in that time.
Season 1: The Master
The Master was the very first Big Bad in the abbreviated first season of the show back in 1997. A 1,000-year old vampire, with an oddly-shaped mouth that Buffy pokes fun at before she destroys him, the Master hasn’t aged very well, but will always be memorable just for being number 1. Formerly known as Heinrich Joseph Nest, the Master’s main appeal was his no nonsense approach to controlling his minions, and after all, he was responsible for the first of Buffy’s two deaths, which then made her a special anomaly in the Slayer line. Although he mostly waves his fists in the air while chanting cliched evil henchmen lines, he was funny at times, and set the precedent for a new main villain each season.