The Buffyverse of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel lives and dies on the strength of its characters. One of the main draws of both shows is their likable and interesting casts, including the dynamics between their characters. Many of them get a huge amount of exploration and development over their time on-screen, letting the audience truly get to know them.
As such, whenever a character in either show dies, it tends to be deeply tragic. Audiences don’t just lose a character, but somebody they’ve watched develop, change, and improve over the years. While all these deaths are tragic, there are some that truly hit the audience hard.
10 Fred Dies Afraid And Helpless
Introduced in the final episodes of Angel‘s second season, Fred Burkle becomes a central member of the team from series three onwards, serving as both their brains and moral center. She goes from a timid, frightened prisoner to a capable and effective leader who’s one of the best assets in the fight against demons – all in time to die tragically.
Part of the horror of Fred’s death is how helpless she is to stop it. She gets too close to a mysterious sarcophagus, and her body and soul are given over to the demon Illyria. Her final moments, clutching Wesley and asking why she can’t stay with him, are considered one of the most harrowing scenes in the show.
9 Anya’s Death Is Sudden And Unexpected
Anya Jenkins begins Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a demon manipulating Cordelia Chase, only to be unwillingly dragged into morality and decency by the Scooby Gang – and particularly Xander. Going from comic relief and an untrustworthy ally to a key member of the Scoobies, she’s one of the many who fights at the Hellmouth in the finale ‘Chosen.’
Unlike other characters, who get lengthy and drawn-out death scenes, Anya’s is shockingly brief. In amongst a chaotic melee, she’s simply stabbed in the back as the fight continues past her. It’s realistic to the nature of war but still caught many fans off-guard, who expected something more drawn-out for such a major character.
8 Jenny Calendar Is The First Major Death
Eventually, both Buffy and Angel became known for beloved characters dying, and for being series with a high level of tragedy, but this is largely absent in early episodes of Buffy. Aside from the death of minor character Jesse and Buffy’s own temporary death, the heroes get through most scrapes alive, even when they fight against terrifying villains.
However, when they go up against Angelus, he seals his villainy with the death of Jenny Calendar. A more minor member of the gang, she nonetheless receives a great deal of focus in season 2 as both a friend and an obstacle to the main characters. The events after her death, when she’s left for Giles to find, only serve to make things more tragic.
7 Doyle Sacrifices Himself To Save Dozens
In the first half of Angel‘s first season, the main trio consists of Angel, Cordelia Chase, and a half-demon named Allen Doyle. A comedic character who’s often the target of mockery, Doyle is nonetheless a moral and human figure when contrasted with Cordelia’s self-involved nature (before her character development), and Angel’s brooding detachment.
The episode ‘Hero’ focuses on the trio fighting against demon supremacists who plan to eradicate a huge number of half-demons with a weapon. Despite the weapon’s ability to kill him, Doyle insists on deactivating it instead of Angel and is killed in the process. Although only in the show for nine episodes, Doyle has a large impact on fans, and his death is a major early moment.
6 Buffy’s Second Death Hits Hard
Despite being the show’s main character and a super-powered Slayer, Buffy actually dies twice over the course of the show. The first in the finale of season 1 is brief, but the second closes out the show’s fifth season, serving as the final episode of the show altogether before its revival.
With a portal threatening to drag Earth into Hell, the only way to stop it is to sacrifice Buffy’s sister Dawn for her blood. However, as Dawn is made from Buffy, she’s able to throw herself into the portal to close it, at the cost of her own life. The moment is painful, made more so by the horrified reactions of Giles, Spike, Willow, and the rest of her friends.
5 Jonathan Tries For Redemption And Is Killed For It
After several episodes of being another Sunnydale student on the periphery of events, Jonathan Levinson becomes a recurring character with some plot significance. He’s a friend and ally to the Scoobies for a time, as well as a meddler in the supernatural, before eventually becoming something of a villain as part of the Trio.
Although he’s the most moral of the three, to some viewers, he still crosses too many moral thresholds. Despite this, season 7 sees Jonathan return to try and prevent the opening of the Hellmouth. He makes a speech about how he simply wants people to be happy and well and how he wants to do the right thing, only for his best friend Andrew to stab him in the back to use him as a blood sacrifice.
4 Cordelia Goes Out After Heaps Of Character Development
Cordelia is first introduced in Buffy as a self-centered and spoiled rich girl. She has a loose grip on other people’s problems and prioritizes her own comfort. On Buffy, she becomes better-meaning and a friend to the cast but is still fundamentally selfish and rude. It’s on Angel that she undergoes huge character development and organically becomes one of the most decent people in either show.
After ascending to a higher power in season 3, Cordelia’s body is puppeted by the villain Jasmine and eventually left comatose. However, her very last appearance is in the episode ‘You’re Welcome,’ where she returns to help the team one final time. After she does, the team receives a phone call from the hospital informing them she’s died, ending any chance of the beloved character properly returning.
3 Tara’s Death Sends Willow Down A Dark Path
One of the most notorious deaths in all of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is Tara Maclay’s. However, her death is an elaborate trick on the audience. After being a lesser main character for nearly three seasons, it’s indicated she’s taking on greater significance. She gets back together with Willow, returns to the gang, and even gets her name in the show’s opening titles.
She’s killed that very episode. Warren Mears attempts to kill Buffy by shooting her, but a stray bullet also hits and kills Tara. The death has become an infamous example of a show killing off one of its few LGBT characters and marks a tragic end to a popular romance – one that sees Willow become the season’s final villain.
2 Wesley Ends Up Out Of His Depth
Wesley Wyndam-Pryce is a comedic and obnoxious character in season 3 of Buffy, whose scenes primarily revolve around his incompetence. He reappears in Angel, becoming part of the core team, and undergoes his own vast amounts of character development. He becomes one of the show’s darkest and most capable characters, as well as a talented fighter and sorcerer.
Given his skill, as the group prepares to assassinate the powerful Circle of the Black Thorn, Wesley is sent after the demon Cyvus Vail. At dinner, he attempts a sneak attack, only to be effortlessly overpowered. After the character’s growth and development, it’s sad for many to see him mocked, held powerless, and then stabbed to death.
1 Joyce Summers Has A Whole Episode Dedicated To Her Death
Although she’s never one of the main characters, Joyce Summers is a constant presence in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She’s Buffy’s mother – and despite occasional hiccups – is a fundamentally helpful and likable presence to not just Buffy but every other character. In season 5, she dies suddenly and unexpectedly of an aneurysm.
The death is custom-crafted to catch both the cast and audience off-guard, and the episode ‘The Body’ is dedicated to the characters reacting and grieving. With a great many powerful moments for nearly all the cast, it’s considered one of the most impactful and affecting episodes of the entire Buffyverse.
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