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This is a collection of ramblings about various Buffy related subjects. Mainly it is an attempt to put forth my theories about the way the Buffyverse works, based on the information given us in the show. I will attempt to differentiate between the things that are known, and the things that I deduce.
So where do Slayers come from? How are they selected? How long do they last?
We actually know very little. We know that normally there is one Slayer. A Chosen One. One girl in all the world yada yada yada. One Slayer dies, the next one is called. Xander threw a bit of a monkey wrench into that scheme when he performed CPR on Buffy in Prophecy Girl and revived her after the Master had killed her. So now we have two Slayers. First Kendra, and now Faith.
Note: The events of season seven seem to have pretty much blown the following theory out of the water. There are many more potential Slayers than there are girls who will ever be called.
There is a fixed number of Candidate Slayers (AKA Potential Slayers or Slayers In Training) scattered around the world. When the Slayer is killed the eldest of the Candidates becomes the new Slayer, and a new Candidate is born. New Candidates will also be born if a Candidate dies before she is called.
How many Candidates there are depends on what the average life expectancy of a Slayer is, and at what age they are normally called. If the average Slayer lasts two years, and they are normally called at 16 then there would be eight Candidate Slayers in the world.
A succession of poor or unlucky Slayers will cause the age of the girl who gets called to go down, and if too many of them die too quickly then the Watchers may have to take special steps to protect a too young Slayer for a few years to let her live long enough to become effective.
Candidate Slayers fall into four categories:
Where do Watchers come from? How are they selected? How are they trained? How many are there? How does Giles rate among the Watchers?
We know that there are multiple Watchers in existence. Kendra’s Watcher was named Sam Zabuto, and Faith had a female Watcher. Both Giles’ father and grandmother were Watchers. There is a Watcher’s Council, and every year there is a Watcher’s Retreat in the Cotswolds in England.
There is a Watcher organization which attempts to identify Candidate Slayers, and prepare them for their future calling. There will be at least one Watcher for each Candidate Slayer (even if they haven’t been located yet), plus additional Watchers who are searching for new Candidates, and researching demon activity. Other Watchers will be involved in recruiting and training new people to become Watchers.
Being a Watcher seems to run in families, but they probably also recruit new people from outside. (I suspect that Willow will get an invitation to join the Watchers at some point.)
The typical Watcher is probably recruited out of college, and they then take a post-graduate course in demonology, and Slayer upbringing. After completing this course many of them will be assigned a Slayer Candidate, either to raise, or to mentor. Others will go on to become researchers or trainers for more Watchers. Some Watchers who were not found suitable to raise or mentor a Candidate, but who have a good knowledge of demonology will become Watchers for active slayers who were not identified before they were called, or for whom the first Watcher has died as a result of some mishap. Giles is a member of this group.
The current membership of the Watcher’s Council seems to be made up of people with little if, any, field experience. They are very much bound by traditions, some of which have little relevance to the current world situation, or for dealing with a Slayer such as Buffy.
In the beginning there was only the Slayer. She lived, fought, and died alone. A few thousand years ago there was a Slayer a little like Buffy. She had friends she recruited to help her. After she died they continued the fight on their own, recruiting more help until one day they found another girl with powers like those of their departed friend.
This repeated itself several times. Several independent Slayer support groups were founded all around the world. Eventually they came to discover each other, and started exchanging information. This would have been a very slow process, taking decades for information to be passed from one end of Europe to the other end of Asia or Africa. (To say nothing of the language problems.) North and South America had their own organizations, totally cut off from the Eurasian/African organizations.
Someone, somewhere started collating all the Slayer histories, and noticed that it wasn’t a case of one girl who came along for a few years every decade or two (which is the most any individual organization would have seen) and figured out the “one Slayer dies, next one’s called.” rule. The gaps remaining in the histories were the result of Slayers being called in places they weren’t in contact with. They started working to identify the Slayer as quickly as possible, and developed methods to identify girls who would become Slayers even before the current Slayer was killed.
As time passed, and trade and better ships made it possible, these different organizations began to amalgamate. There may have been a European council (or two…one Catholic, the other Protestant.) The Protestant council was based in England.
During the 18th and 19th centuries the English council expanded with the British Empire. Wherever the empire went the council followed, absorbing the local council’s into it. It got to be so large and powerful that the remaining independent councils finally decided to just throw in with it.
The deal with Snyder and the Mayor slowly unfolds over the second and third seasons of Buffy. It starts with a few vague hints that everything is not quite as it seems in the local government and slowly grows until all is revealed by the end of the third season.
Early in the second season we get the first inkling that elements of the Sunnydale civic government are not as clueless as they have appeared to be. After Buffy has driven away the vampires which invaded the school on parent teacher night Principal Snyder is seen discussing with Policeman Bob how they are going to explain what has happened to the press. It is clear that they know that the explanation that they put forth: “Gang related, PCP” is not the truth.
Towards the end of the second season we once again see Snyder and Policeman Bob discussing how they are going to explain a strange happening at the school: the school cafeteria being overrun by snakes. This time Snyder makes explicit reference to the Hellmouth. He and Bob know that the school is built on top of it. Bob implies that Snyder has been placed in the school to help cover incidents like this one up. The first reference is also made to the Mayor of Sunnydale. He seems to be the person directing the coverup.
In the third season we finally meet Mayor Richard Wilkins III. We learn that Mayor Wilkins and his senior aid Allan Finch are well aware that Sunnydale is a haven for vampires and other creatures of the night. He recruits the new local head vampire Mr. Trick, to work for him. Mayor Wilkins is also aware that Buffy and Faith are Slayers. We also get the first indications that the Mayor has a plan for which he requires the children of Sunnydale.
We learn even more about Mayor Wilkins. The Mayor has in part gained his position in Sunnydale through a series of deals made with various demons. The time has come to pay a tribute to Lurconis, a giant snake demon who lives in the sewers beneath the city. Lurconis’s tribute is a ritual feeding which takes place once every 30 years. Lurconis eats babies. It is becoming pretty clear that the Mayor is a truly evil man. Or is he a man at all? Is this the first time he has made his tribute to Lurconis? Were Richard Wilkins I and II different people, or does the Mayor rejuvenate himself periodically, and then assume the identity of his son?
It is also pretty clear in Band Candy that Snyder really has no idea what the Mayor is really up to. He is nothing but a dupe. His job is to keep the strange happenings at Sunnydale High under wraps, no more than that.
We learn that the Mayor knew all about Spike’s activities the year before, and we get further proof that the Sunnydale police department is actively covering up vampire related incidents.
Things start becoming clearer. The demon Balthazar has returned to Sunnydale, intent on revenge against the man who injured him 100 years ago: Mayor Wilkins. This episode also marks The Dedication. A ceremony in which the Mayor makes himself invulnerable, and starts the clock ticking on the countdown to his ultimate goal: Ascension. In 100 days the Mayor will Ascend.
Buffy and Faith discover that the Mayor is the one who is giving Mr. Trick his orders, but they still have no idea of why. Unfortunately the Mayor also knows that they know. At the end of this episode Faith kills Mr. Trick, and takes over his position as the Mayor’s primary hit person.
Buffy finally learns of the Ascension, but she still has no idea of what it is. The only reference to an Ascension which Giles can find in his books tells of an entire town that was wiped off the map in the 18th century, but there were no survivors to tell anyone how it happened. Buffy also learns that Faith has joined the Mayor’s team.
While researching the Mayor in an attempt to learn more about the Ascension Oz uncovers a picture of the original Richard Wilkins. It is the same man who is currently Mayor of Sunnydale.
Faith reveals to Buffy that the Mayor built Sunnydale for demons to feed on, and come graduation day he is going to collect his reward. When he Ascends he is going to be transformed in some way.
The Mayor receives the Box of Gavrok, which will play a role in the Ascension. It contains billions of large killer bugs. Willow also manages to liberate a few pages from the Books of Ascension in the Mayor’s office from which Giles and Wesley learn that the Mayor is going to transform into a demon.
From Anya—a girl who used to be an immortal demon—Buffy and the Slayerettes learn just what an Ascension is. The Mayor is going to transform into a pure demon. All the demons that Buffy has faced up until now have been tainted by their contact with the natural world. The true thing is something much worse. On Graduation Day the Mayor is planning to cap off the Commencement ceremonies by transforming into a demon, and eating the graduating class.
We also get the final confirmation of Snyder’s role in all of this. He is nothing but the petty little bureaucrat he has always seemed to be. Intent on keeping order by sweeping anything nasty away under a carpet somewhere. He receives his reward for years of service to the Mayor by being one of the first people eaten.
Several people have speculated that the recent events in Buffy mark a major departure from what they perceive to be one of the show’s basic premises: No one notices the weirdness. They point to Buffy receiving her “Class Protector” award in The Prom and the class banding together to fight the Mayor in Graduation Day as major departures from the previous status quo and worry that these mark the end of Buffy as we know it.
But what has really changed?
A large segment of the population of Sunnydale has been in on the weirdness for some time. That has been obvious since School Hard. We have also seen that a lot of people in Sunnydale turn to the supernatural where people from a more normal town would go out and get a gun or something. These people will continue to do so. The Mayor had people scattered throughout the civic government whose job it was to suppress information on what was going on, and those people are still there, and will presumably continue to do their jobs.
When he presented the award Jonathan said “We don’t talk about it much” and that is the key. People know about the weirdness, they just don’t talk about it. It is a taboo subject. For a hundred years parents in Sunnydale have been teaching their children that there are certain things you just don’t talk about. It’s kind of like sex. For a long time people acted like sex didn’t exist around children (some of them still do) Whenever the kids would bring up the subject they would be discouraged from ever doing so again. Kids grow up hearing the stories whispered in the dark, and thinking that they are just stories, but as they get older they begin to learn that the monsters are real. Sort of an inverse Santa Claus effect.
That is the stage that Willow and Xander were at when the series started. They were reaching the stage in life where they have seen enough weirdness for themselves that they are ready to learn that it is all real. That is why they accepted the truth about vampires and Buffy so easily.
The biggest change is that now Buffy knows that lots of other people know what is happening around her. They haven’t changed, and the way they react to things will remain the same, but Buffy’s (and our) perception of their behaviour has changed. Most of the people in town know that most of the stories about gangs on PCP, gas leaks and sewers backing up are just cover stories meant to keep outsiders from learning what really happened.
The old explanation of “everyone reinterprets the events as something else, and forgets the bits that won’t fit” was getting worn pretty thin. It may be true for newcomers in town, but the long term residents do know. Lots of people saw the Hansel and Gretel demon in Gingerbread as well as seeing Amy turn herself into a rat. Lots of people recognised the vampire Willow in the Bronze, and watched her kill Sandy, but nothing came of it. The Mayor left a very large and conspicuous corpse on the school grounds. They didn’t have nearly enough explosives to blow it into small enough chunks spread over a large enough area to make it inconspicuous (For something that size you would pretty much need a nuke to accomplish that.)
Buffy now knows that for most of the town’s people this is largely an act. A put on facade to hide what is going on there from the rest of the world, and from recent immigrants until they can be properly trained to not talk about it either. She is also moving into a new environment, one with a lot more outsiders in it, so there will be continuing pressure on those who are in the know to keep up the “pretend it didn’t happen” act. But now we and Buffy know that for a lot of them it is an act.
Opinions on this one are varied, ranging from “They are an evil organization who have some secret nefarious scheme for world domination or destruction.” to “They are the secret guardians of all that is good and right, and if we knew what their secret plan really was we would all see that.”
There are basically 5 possibilities:
Of these possibilities I find numbers 1 and 5 to be equally unlikely. Giles has associated with the Council for his entire life. There is no evidence that he considers that they have any sort of evil intent. His opinion of them probably lies somewhere between possibilities 3 and 4.
Number 5 is unlikely because no one is that smart. People are notoriously hard to manipulate, they are constantly running off in directions that you never predicted. The cunning secret master plan is an invention of bad fiction. You can not plan for every contingency. Only a foolish person would even try to institute such a complex plan, and as a result they would get themselves badly bitten on the butt. It probably would have happened before now.
Number 2 is a possibility, but I don’t think it is too likely. Giles would have noticed that there was something rotten in Denmark by now if the Council really had been taken over, unless it was a very recent event.
Number 3 has my vote for what has happened. It seems to fit what I have observed of the council’s behaviour best.
Number 4 is a close second.
Whatever is going on with the Council, I think that it needs a major reorganization. At some point in the next couple of years the issue should be forced. The Council is not going to accept Buffy’s resignation. They are going to try to reassert their authority over her. Buffy is not going to want that to happen. In order to keep them from interfering too much in her life she is going to have to face the council, if not for her own sake, then for the sake of the next poor girl who gets chosen to be the Slayer.
If the Council is evil then she will have to fight and defeat them, and then help put the remnants back together into an organization which really is what the Council purports to be. If it has merely become incompetent she will have to help the more competent elements within it rise to the top, and help them institute new procedures and practices which will once again make them an effective organization.
Creatures in the Buffyverse seem to be composed of three components. Body, spirit, and soul.
The body is just meat.
The spirit carries the intelligence, and the memories.
The soul carries the emotions and other intangibles, such as the conscience.
Spirit and soul, combined without body makes a ghost.
Body and spirit without a soul leaves a completely amoral person. A sociopath incapable of telling right from wrong, such as what Buffy was becoming in Living Conditions.
A body without a spirit becomes a zombie. A mindless animated corpse.
Vampires are special cases. They have souls, but their souls are demonic. The original human soul has been evicted and replaced by a demon. Perhaps a demon spirit comes along for the ride too, but the original spirit is still there. This is one reason why becoming a vampire is worse than dieing. The person’s spirit stays trapped in the body, unable to move on. Perhaps eternally.
Angel has a continuity of memory, from human, to vampire, to souled vampire again because he is still carrying his original spirit along with him. And he isn’t really just a vampire with a soul. He is a vampire with a human soul. The human soul sits on top of the vampire soul, keeping its appetites in check, most of the time.
Memory is a funny thing. It isn’t as concrete and fixed as most people think it is. We really remember a whole lot less about what happens in our lives than we imagine we do. Our memories are constantly shifting, and getting overwritten by new versions.
So how much does anyone really remember about Dawn? I expect that the answer is “not very much.” I wouldn’t be surprised if every concrete memory that any of them had about her was written down in the diaries that she burned in Blood Ties.
For most of her life Dawn was just “around.” For many of the critical events that happened during the first fourteen years of her life Dawn was likely “visiting Dad” or “at home with the babysitter.” If you try to pin anyone down about exactly what Dawn was doing at any particular time you will find that they mostly don’t remember. While Buffy was having a very exciting life as the Slayer Dawn was being sheltered from it. Nothing particularly memorable ever happened while she was actually present.
Dawn was probably a very Marcy like person for the first fourteen years of her “life.” She was the girl no one noticed. She sat quietly in class, handed in her homework on time, and got good grades on tests so her teachers and classmates didn’t really notice her at all. She didn’t have friends, so she has no memories of friends, and no friends that remember her. Six months after moving to Sunnydale eleven year old Dawn still didn’t have any friends to invite to her birthday party. (Shadow)
Joyce’s friends were probably aware that she had two daughters. Buffy, and “the good one.” Dawn even has memories of being totally overshadowed by her older sister:
“Nobody knows who I am…not the real me. It’s like…nobody cares enough to find out. I mean, does anyone ever ask me what I want to do with my life? Or what my opinion is on stuff? Or what restaurant to order in from? No!!! No one understands. No one has an older sister who’s a Slayer.”
—Dawn’s diary, Real Me
Buffy is also aware that something has recently changed in the way she thinks about Dawn:
“I know it’s always been this way. She’s the baby. But for some reason lately it’s just really getting to me. I mean, she’s always around.”
— Buffy, Real Me
Buffy senses that there is something different about her recent (real) memories of Dawn, like she is impinging more on her consciousness than she had in the past, but that awareness isn’t enough to make her suspect that there is anything wrong with her memories.
Buffy and Joyce got the most extensive set of memories. They could probably both come up with countless anecdotes of Stuff Dawn Did when she was twelve, but they probably never noticed that they both remembered pretty much the same anecdotes. They both remember something that happened in February of 1997, but they don’t notice that neither of them can remember anything that happened to Dawn in March of 1997.
After they became aware that their memories had been altered they might be able to sit down, and try to figure out everything that had happened, and realize that their memories do have some rather large holes, but unless they made the effort they just wouldn’t notice.
Dawn herself also has a very limited memory. She didn’t know that Buffy had spent her summer in L.A. working as a waitress. She remembers the stuff that was written in the diaries. Everything else is just a fuzzy “I was there, but I don’t really recall what I was doing,” type of thing.
© 2002 by Don Sample
Last updated: October 2, 2002