Trigger Warning: ‘Little Bads: Favourite Buffy Monsters of the Week Part 1’ makes reference to domestic abuse, drug addiction, and gore.
Something that comes to mind for myself and, I’m sure, many other fans when thinking about Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the range of iconic Big Bads the show has to offer. Now, those ultra-villains certainly deserve the attention they get, but when they’re not the focus, the Scoobies have had to fight many a Monster of the Week. Some of these are minions of a greater evil, but a lot are just in Sunnydale to cause chaos for an episode. And good on them! So let’s take a look at some worthy Little Bads, as I’ve decided to call them.
Catherine Madison (‘Witch’, Season 1)
Starting off with an early Season 1 baddie, Catherine Madison (Robin Riker) is pretty memorable. Desperate to relive her youth as a cheerleader, this powerful witch cast a body-swap spell with her daughter, Amy (Elizabeth Anne Allen). To make the squad, she then cast further nasty spells on fellow students so they couldn’t compete. Among these were vision impairment, spontaneous combustion, and a bloodstone vengeance spell to affect the immune system. Her powers were threatening enough, but the abusive treatment of her daughter made her all the more terrifying. Once thwarted by a combination of Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) and Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Catherine got trapped in her own winning cheerleader trophy. The final shot of her eyes moving and muffled shouting from inside the trophy is rather chilling.
Eyghon (‘The Dark Age’, Season 2)
Maybe this one’s a little biased since I’m utterly obsessed with this Giles-centric episode. Regardless, Eyghon the Sleepwalker is a very cool demon who possesses people who are dead or unconscious only. Back in his Ripper days, Giles and his nemesis Ethan Rayne (Robin Sachs) were part of a group of sorcerers who would summon Eyghon, as it gave an extraordinary high to those possessed by him. It’s an effective analogy for drug addiction. After one of their friends, Randall (Daniel Henry Murray), got killed during one of these rituals, Eyghon swore to kill the rest of them for toying with him. And he succeeded in killing them all except Giles and Ethan. His only downfall was that he chose to possess Angel (David Boreanaz), and was defeated by the demon within him. Loading Eyghon with backstory made him that much more interesting.
Ted Buchanan (‘Ted’, Season 2)
I’m sure a lot of Buffy fans are with me on this one—despite only being in the one episode, Ted (John Ritter) made quite an impression. The original Ted Buchanan was an inventor in the 1950s who created the robot version of himself to be a better husband when his wife left him. But, as things always turn sour once a character decides to play God, the robot Ted eventually killed his wife. A similar tale is repeated when Ted starts dating Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland).
To get everyone on his side, he laces cookies with a drug to make people mellow and easily warm to him. Although Buffy is wise to his tactics, he is aggressive towards her only in private so no one believes her accusations. Things inevitably reach boiling point, and after a fight Buffy believes she’s killed Ted. It’s a truly haunting moment, thinking the Slayer has made a mistaken judgement call and just killed a human being. Of course, he comes back and is revealed to be an evil robot, defeated after fight number two. Sure, a robot isn’t a super complex monster, but the domestic abuse theme in how he’s portrayed is pretty poignant.
Jack O’Toole (‘The Zeppo’, Season 3)
As a Sunnydale student, perhaps the fate of Jack O’Toole (Channon Roe) was always doomed. Killed in a drive-by shooting, he was resurrected by his grandfather and then proceeded to raise his friends from the dead too. Before we know he’s a zombie, Jack comes across as a generic arrogant thug, threatening Xander (Nicholas Brendon) with a beating, and later a knife. To express his gratitude at Xander covering for him when they’re approached by a cop, he recruits him as their Baby Driver. Hilarity ensues, as the zombie gang are rather comedic. Soon enough, however, they become a real threat, once Xander realises they intend to make a bomb and blow up Sunnydale High. Jack has a dramatic stand-off with Xander before deciding to disarm the bomb, only to be eaten by Oz (Seth Green) in werewolf form. He’s an exciting Monster of the Week with an unexpectedly impressive range of skills, from physical prowess to magical knowledge.
Balthazar (‘Bad Girls’, Season 3)
Uniquely, this Little Bad was an old enemy of Season 3’s Big Bad, Mayor Wilkins (Harry Groener). Balthazar (Christian Clemenson) was an underground-dwelling demon who sent a vampire cult by the name of El Eliminati to retrieve his amulet. The object was the source of his power, and was stolen from him when he was previously defeated by the Mayor. Naturally, Buffy kills Balthazar via electrocution, but not before he manages to capture both Watchers, Giles and Wesley (Alexis Denisof), and serve some serious threats. All this from the comfort of his bathtub, no less. The way he asks a minion to constantly moisturise him reminds me a lot of Cassandra from Doctor Who—his desperate kind of vulnerability and frustration is humorous as it contrasts with his big bark.
Gachnar (‘Fear, Itself’, Season 4)
Accidentally summoned during a frat party in my personal favourite Buffy Halloween episode, Gachnar (Adam Bitterman) is a fear demon. The Mark of Gachnar was a symbol painted on the floorboards that, when triggered, brought to life any fears in the environment, whether it be from spooky decorations or people’s insecurities. All the partygoers ended up trapped inside the frat house as well, unable to escape the nightmare. While Giles was instructing her on how to defeat the demon, Buffy impulsively destroyed the Mark, which resulted in bringing him forth. Much to the Scoobies’ (and the audience’s) amusement, however, Gachnar was actually only a few inches tall and thus very squishable. Giles had missed the ‘Actual size’ caption—talk about Little Bad! Despite this funny ending, Gachnar’s powers were extensive and the chaos he caused genuinely scary.
The Gentlemen (‘Hush’, Season 4)
Doug Jones, Camden Toy, Don W. Lewis, and Charlie Brumbly make up the Gentlemen, some of the creepiest and most famous Buffy Monsters of the Week. Tall, bald, suited demons with permanent metallic grins fixed on their faces, the Gentlemen were certainly nightmarish fairytale villains. One night, they arrived in Sunnydale and stole everyone’s voices using a magical box. While the inhabitants of the town were rendered silent, they used this to their advantage by murdering people when no one could hear their screams. Pretty scary stuff, huh? Their goal was to steal seven hearts, and they managed to get five before being defeated by Buffy and Riley (Marc Blucas). Buffy played the role of the fairytale ‘princess’ who screamed after getting her voice back, causing the monsters’ heads to explode. Their departure was as impactful as their presence.
Count Dracula (‘Buffy vs. Dracula’, Season 5)
A man of many titles (‘Excellent Spookiness’ being my personal favourite, coined by Xander), Dracula was an iconic inclusion in the show. There was a lot to live up to, but the way the writers leaned into the classic Transylvanian vampire tropes and added a healthy dose of cheesiness paid off in my eyes. Prior to his arrival in Sunnydale, Dracula (Rudolf Martin) was known as Vlad the Impaler and killed a lot of people even before becoming a vampire. After ‘his story’ was published in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the vampire community looked down on him for selling out their vulnerabilities to humans. As Spike (James Marsters) said, ‘That glory hound’s done more harm to vampires than any Slayer. His story gets out and suddenly everybody knows how to kill us.’ I can see why vampires would be mad.
Dracula’s powers as shown in Buffy were very much loyal to the book. He could shapeshift into various animals (including wolves and bats) and fly while in some of these forms, hypnotise people to serve him or let him bite them (as shown with Xander and Buffy respectively), and reconstitute his form after getting staked. A Gothic castle was also his place of residence, which seemingly appeared in Sunnydale overnight and was never seen again. Most of his time as the Monster of the Week was full of gimmicks, but he posed a genuine threat to Buffy and his connection with her wasn’t forgotten easily.
Sweet (‘Once More, With Feeling’, Season 6)
Another iconic episode that couldn’t be ignored involves the fabulous villain Sweet (Hinton Battle). Bringing widespread songs and dance to a town sounds fun in theory, but actually this demon’s powers caused uncontrollable singing and dancing ending in spontaneous combustion. In addition to this, everyone spilled their innermost secrets in the form of songs, causing a lot of drama between the Scoobies. Thinking Dawn summoned him since she stole his talisman, Sweet attempted to make her ‘his queen’, kidnapping her with his costumed henchmen. However, upon finding out Xander performed the invocation, Sweet dismissed the rules and returned to Hell. Before he left, he performed an extremely catchy song and dance number. Hinton Battle is a dancer and dance instructor, hence why his performance was so compelling!
Wig Lady (‘Doublemeat Palace’, Season 6)
This might seem like an odd entry, but hear me out. Buffy is convinced that the burgers she’s making and selling at Doublemeat Palace are made of human meat. As it turns out, it’s not the food that is suspicious, but ‘Wig Lady’ (Pat Crawford Brown), a regular at the fast food restaurant. She is revealed to have an unfortunately phallic-shaped demon hiding underneath her wig that paralyses and eats Doublemeat Palace employees. The demon uses the disguise of an unassuming old lady to give it an advantage against its victims. Due to Buffy’s temporary paralysis, Willow ends up killing this monster by cutting off the demonic appendage and shoving it into the meat grinder. As silly as the Wig Lady seems, she’s actually part of quite an interesting story about how much crap working class people have to put up with at their jobs.
Gnarl (‘Same Time, Same Place’, Season 7)
Three seasons after his appearance as one of the Gentlemen, Camden Toy returned to play another terrifying Monster of the Week: the demon Gnarl. His actions were amongst the more gruesome of Buffy villains, as he skinned his human victims alive while they were paralysed, feeding off them. Gnarl’s speed and agility as well as immunity to magic also made him difficult to defeat. While stripping the helpless Willow’s skin and eating it (big yuck), he taunted her in a sing-song voice. Buffy finally killed him by gouging out his eyes with her bare hands (I know, right?), releasing both Willow and Dawn from their paralysis. Green skin, pointed teeth, and long, rakish fingernails made Gnarl very goblin-like, especially as he dwelled in a cave. I don’t know what was more threatening, his looks or his actions.
These are just a few among many effective Monsters of the Week across the seven seasons of Buffy—feel free to comment which are your favourites. I’ve also got a Part 2 coming up, so keep your eyes peeled (not literally) for that!