SLAYER'S HANDBOOK, SECOND EDITION
Part 2. Analysis & Speculation
By John Jones, Manhunter from Marathon, IL
Moving on to the Figuring Things Out phase...
This is where I take all that stuff I noted down in Part 1., Data, and try to make it make some sort of coherent sense, as far as constructing some sort of consistent, sensible internal continuity for the BUFFY franchise that intelligently and coherently explains... well... most stuff, if not all of it. Things like, if vampires are dead, how the heck to they smoke and have sex... what is the soul... what are demons, as opposed to Demons, and where do they come from... what are the Higher Powers... what is Magic... what is The Slayer, and where do its powers come from... and, you know, various other fun enigmas and queries like that.
Much of vampires... their spirituality, one might say (or lack thereof)... will be addressed in our next, and separate section, The Soul. However, this section will deal with their physicality... which, while in my opinion, is intertwined with their psyches, obviously can't have to do with an actual 'soul', because vampires, like demons, don't have a 'soul'.
In "Welcome To The Hellmouth", Giles cautions Xander that when he looks at his now Undead buddy Jessie, he is not looking at his friend, but rather, at the monster who killed his friend. This seems to be, in general, the official party line on vampires... they may walk, talk, and when they feel like it, act like your old buddy, but they're not; they're a demon, and they'll eat you. Whatever your friend once was, they are now gone, dead, and what remains behind is merely their body, animated by a demonic presence and being used to promote the demon's agendas, which are usually awful and evil. This demon in your former friend's body may have all your friend's memories, and even their quirks and mannerisms, but they are not your friend. Deal with it.
If what Giles says is true (and his statement is already clearly contradictory in one way anyway, but we'll get to that), then the 'real' person killed by a vampire has nothing whatsoever to do with the vampire itself created from that real person's body. The animating demonic spirit in the vampire body may have the previous inhabitant's memories as well as their mortal husk, and may, for reasons of its own, choose to behave in ways recognizeable and characteristic of the former living person, but it isn't them... it is an entirely separate, demonic entity.
So, again, assuming that what Giles says is the literal truth... that Undead Jessie, or Undead Harmony, or Undead Angel, or Undead Drusilla... are not, actually, in any way the real, living people who once bore those names before they were killed, their souls departed to wherever it is souls go, and their dead bodies were reanimated somehow by an infusion of some dark, necromantic energy that transformed them into bloodsucking monsters... then what we have in the vampire is a fairly simple case of demonic possession... albeit a possession that takes place after the body is dead and its original inhabiting human soul has departed. Somehow, the possessing demon makes its way from some outer, non-material, demonic dimension into the dead body... most likely, the ritual of 'turning' a vampire's victim is actually a magical invocation of sorts that summons the disembodied demon to displace the human soul from the blood drained body with itself... and as the body has not had time to decay, the new demonic inhabitant inherits it whole and undamaged, and thus, has full access to the recorded memories in the body's brain cells. It can, if it wishes (and apparently, inhabiting demons nearly always do) 'put on' the personality and memories of the now departed person and simulate them to an alarming degree... albeit, of course, without their provincial human morality or any semblance of human affection or regard for other humans.
This is a workable mechanism. Basically, it posits that there are, at least, two sorts of demons... those walking around in material bodies, and those without material bodies who take over the dead bodies of human vampire victims. This raises questions as to whether or not there is some essential difference between 'living' demons and the ones in dead, reanimated human bodies, and whether there is, in fact, any difference between human souls and immaterial demon entities. So... it's not a simple mechanism, but hey, sometimes life is complicated, and as I say, we can work with it.
However, there is a problem with Giles' assertion that 'you're not looking at your friend, you're looking at the monster that killed him'. In point of fact, this isn't true. The monster that killed Jessie was a particularly ugly, brutish vampire (played, underneath all that makeup, by everybody's favorite thug/cheap villain actor Brian Thompson, perhaps best known for his brief but chilling portrayal of Eddie Fiore, Primogen of the Bruja Clan in FOX's interesting but generally stiff and lugubrious KINDRED: THE EMBRACED) who served the Master (or it might have been Darla, for all I know, and let's say it was, because I can remember her name). If our above hypothesis is true, then Darla drains Jessie's blood enough to kill him, or, nearly, and then cuts herself (as we saw her do with Angel) and has him drink her blood. This act seems to drive Jessie's own human soul out of his body and invite a demonic spirit in. Earlier this season (the second, 2000-2001 season) on ANGEL, we saw Darla's re-conversion to vampirism in some detail, and so we now know that it takes some little time for the body to be changed and the new animating demonic spirit (again, under this hypothetical mechanism) to take control. So... soul leaves, demon enters, body is transformed over the course of a day or so out of the sun, then a new vampire... basically, a demon inhabiting a dead, necromantically transformed human body... gets up.
Yet Giles asserts that you are looking at 'the monster that killed your friend', and in fact, this isn't true. Undead Jessie is not the monster that killed Human Jessie, he's the one who took over Jessie's body after Darla killed Human Jessie. Darla is the monster who killed our friend Jessie, not Undead Jessie. In other words, the vampire's sire is the monster who killed the friend who used to own that body.
We can adjust this by increments to make Giles' statement technically correct... we could state, for example, that it is the entry of the new inhabiting demon that pushes the human soul out, because when a human is 'turned', their sire does not drain enough blood to kill them from that trauma and blood loss alone... and who knows, perhaps that's what Giles means. But emotionally, it doesn't seem valid. And we still have, then, the complications revolving around living demons and disembodied demons, human souls and demon spirits, and various other things that make the brain ache. And, ultimately, if Undead Jessie, Undead Harmony, and Undead Angel, are not really 'our friends', but are, instead 'the monsters that killed them', then we run into a whole host of problems revolving around Angel's moral responsibility for the various evil actions taken by the demon inhabiting his body when his soul is not in residence.
Given all that, I have to posit that something else is going on with vampires, and with souls. And try though I may to keep these articles separate, they are intertwined. Still, while discussing vampire physiology, I'll try hard to discuss only what a soul essentially is not, and therefore, to an extent, what sentience, and self awareness, and free will, and individuality, actually are. And, of course, what a vampire actually is. And on the way, I may well touch on what a demon actually is, as well.
Let's see... where to start. Hmmmm. Well, let's look at Giles statement in another light. Let's assume that, instead of being literally true, Giles statement might well simply be something that the Watcher's Council has formulated as a sort of propaganda, to help humans fight vampires without conscience pangs. After all, if the Watchers were to be taught, or to teach Slayers, or even humans being threatened by vampires, that in fact, those monsters do retain certain elements of their essential humanity, well, moral issues then come up. If vampires are, to some extent, human beings, as valid as any normal human being, but with superhuman powers, no consciences, and an insatiable craving for human blood... well, then, while killing them in self defense during a battle is certainly allowable, sneaking into their tombs and staking them while they're helpless would rather smack of murder. After all, there have been human psychotics through the ages who thought they were vampires; morally, most people would feel they should be captured and put in prison, not have a stake driven through their hearts by a vigilante Vampire Slayer, which certainly smacks of a lack of due process.
No, it's only if vampires are supernatural demonic entities without a trace of humanity, who actually have nothing of the previous body's owner left in them, who only simulate that identity as a convincing illusion, that a Watcher, a Slayer, or the average person can kill them without conscience pangs or troubling conflicts with the social contract. Let them retain their humanity, even slightly... let Undead Jessie actually, in some valid way, really BE Xander's friend Jessie, just changed horribly... and it's a whole different moral and ethical can of worms.
All of which would explain why the Watcher's Council, and Giles, would take the 'it's not your friend, it's the monster that killed your friend' stance. Vampires are unquestionably evil, just like Charles Manson and Ted Bundy; there are a plague of them, they are a menace to humanity, and they have to be killed... just like the Nazis and Japanese soldiers had to be killed during WWII... so the Watchers cook up a line of propaganda to make it easy for their Slayers, and other humans, to do so.
And we actually know that, in point of fact, certain vampires do retain at least some aspects of their essential humanity. The Judge was a demon with the specific power to burn away the humanity in sentient entities, and we saw his power work on at least one, rather human acting, vampire... and he claimed it would have worked on Spike and Drusilla, too (because they still retained the human capacity for affection, at least, for each other). Angel, (in one of his soulless intervals) on the other hand, was pronounced to be 'utterly clean' and completely inhuman. If vampires can retain some elements of humanity, and vampires have no souls, then clearly, the essence of self aware identity is more complex and arises from something more than simply a 'soul'... which is already self evident, since demons are self aware and possessed of individual identities, and they have no souls.
Again, what souls are, we'll explore in our next session. It's sufficient to say that now, the entire human essence does not depart from a vampire when the soul does. 'Humanity'... identity, self awareness, the essence of 'me' or 'you'... does not vanish with the soul. It remains... although, like the body, it seems to be altered and mutated by the presence of the necromantic magics that change the human husk into a vampiric body.
Spike, Drusilla, Darla, Angel... all of them are, even after being changed into vampires, still the same essential person, to an extent. The fact that their souls are gone does not make them into entirely different individual entities. There is a continuity of identity. What does 'identity' itself arise from, then? Most likely, from the consciousness and self awareness that reside in the brain. Can the identity live on after the death of the body, either seeking out a new body, in reincarnation, or passing on to a higher, immaterial realm, as in the standard beliefs in an afterlife, or even remaining behind in one earthly place as a disembodied spirit, as a ghost or haunt? Yes, I suspect it can. However, I believe that for the consciousness of the body to become freed of the body, the body has to actually die... and in the case of vampiric transformation, the body never does actually die, but is, instead, simply changed while in a comatose state... and the transformation it undergoes causes the non-physical component of a human entity we call a 'soul' to detach itself and go elsewhere. However, as the body is not dead, it does not take the actual personality, consciousness, or self awareness of the inhabiting human entity with it. That remains, and is transformed by the infusion of necromantic energy, just as the body is.
However, the departure of the human entity's soul does rob him or her of something... their ability to perform higher moral judgements. Their empathy. Their sense of connection to the material world, to the social body, to the human race. Their ability to regard other living beings as having any importance, as being anything except toys for their pleasure, as having any sort of right to live, to be free, to seek their own happiness.
In fact, virtually every demon seems to be lacking in this higher quality as well. They seem to be self serving entirely, to view all others as tools or toys, to put themselves first, to be incapable of compassion, mercy, or love, or really of any behavior that does not serve themselves.
So, in effect, a vampire is merely a human, with this quality of empathy, this capacity for compassion and love and friendship, this ability to perform moral judgements, removed, and placed into a mutated, supernaturally empowered (and limited) body. The same human as before the transformation took place... but without a conscience, or any sense of the validity or humanity of anyone else.
This is not merely an idle or academic question, because one of the ongoing central issues in the Buffy continuity is the morality and redemption of Angel, and thus, whether or not a soulless, vampirically animated corpse does actually, in some way, retain its former identity as a living sentient creature, or if, in fact, that identity departs with the soul and leaves behind merely a dead body being used by an extradimensional possessing demon is fundamental to this subject.
Unless a vampire is the living person transformed psychically, emotionally, and physically by the necromantic transformation of vampirism, then there's no reason why Angel should feel the slightest guilt for anything that his body has done while his soul was not inhabiting it. In which case, the central conflict that makes Angel the fascinatingly complex and conflicted and tormented character he is, is bogus... and any Watcher could and should have long since told him so. The things 'Angelus' does, when Angel's soul is out of his body, are not Angel's responsibility.
He has no control over them, and should feel no guilt. If the soul is actually the key and essential component to individual identity that survives the body after death, then 'Angelus' and Angel are two separate entities, and the former is always driven into dormancy when the latter returns and takes over control of his own natural form again... and that being the case, the heroic and noble Angel, whom Buffy loves and who has saved the world several times in his own right, is an entirely different guy from that demon Angelus, who also lives in Angel's body and who wakes up and takes control of it whenever Angel steps out for a while. And since Angel's departures and arrivals in his own body are never subject to his own control... well, he simply has nothing to feel bad about, or to make up for. He hasn't done anything wrong. It's all the demon who lives inside him.
If Giles truly believes that Angel is not, in fact, Angel when he is without his soul, but is, instead, the monster who killed Angel, then he should have long since advised Angel, and Buffy, and the rest of the Scooby Gang, that the evil, soulless Angel who for lengthy periods acted as Buffy's arch enemy and chief tormentor, is not, in fact, the same being/entity/person who loves Buffy, is a friend to the Scooby Gang, and a devoted enemy to evil. The fact that he hasn't irrefutably indicates that Giles knows there is more to personal identity than simply the presence, or lack thereof, of a soul.
Again... by inarguable and straightforward deductive and inductive reasoning, a vampire is not merely a soulless, demonic monster in a dead human body. It is actually something far more terrifying and horrifying than that... it is a human being, murdered and deprived of its capacity to make moral and ethical judgements, possessed of a ravening, insatiable hunger for living human blood, and, for all we know, also possessed by an additional, demonic personality urging the surviving, conscienceless, empathy-free human sentience to greater and greater acts of cruelty, brutality, and evil.
In short, the process of being turned to vampirism bears some resemblance to what happens when Glory 'brainsucks' someone. Glory robs people of their sanity by removing the 'coherent energy' of their minds, while being turned to a vampire robs a person of their conscience, empathy, and feeling of connection to a society or race.
I'm going to stress again... this must be how vampirism works, because, otherwise, Angel's guilt and remorse over the various evil actions he has committed over the centuries without his soul in place, and especially over his most recent transgressions against his friends and his lover Buffy, have no moral weight, conviction, or validity to them. They're spurious. Unless Angel, albeit Angel without a conscience, committed those acts, then he has nothing to feel guilty about... and Giles, or Buffy, or Xander (Xander reads comic books and science fiction, he should have spotted this instantly, it's the exact same premise as the Jean Grey is innocent/Phoenix is guilty premise in X-MEN for the last 20 years) should have told him this, if he's too guilted out to see it himself.
Having established that a vampire is not, in fact, simply a monstrous imperfect duplicate of the person it replaces, but is, in fact, to a very valid extent, that person him or herself, but corrupted, I'll now try to figure out exactly what a vampire, physically, is.
This is a difficult problem. Vampires are supposed to be the walking dead; necromantically reanimated corpses that shamble around attacking the living and draining their blood. In order for them to seem properly horrible and terrifying, this has to be what they are. (One of the reasons KINDRED: THE EMBRACED did not seem to find much of an audience may well be that much of the horror of the 'walking corpse' depiction was removed by the ongoing depiction of most Kindred as having working biologies that allowed them to go out in the daylight, breathe, and have a heartbeat, provided they'd fed recently. Of course, the other major factor was probably that most Kindred weren't evil, didn't act like monsters, and didn't kill people to feed, and what's the fun of vampires who run around being nicey nicey all the time?
Even the presence of major babes like Kelly Rutherford, Brigid Walsh, and Stacy Haiduk couldn't salvage a show about kinder, gentler, New Age vampires.) However, at the same time, while vampires as shambling corpses works fine when we want to horrify and disgust the viewers, it sacrifices an entire human dimension... something that would greatly hinder characterization, or, at least, standard characterization regarding romance and sexuality, with vampiric main characters... which is one of the fundamental elements of all successful soap opera.
You can't have it both ways. If your vampires are dead, necromantically animated bodies, that's fine and horrible and disgusting and scary, but their chances of boning a cute blond Slayer without making use of foreign objects and/or well trained Doberman Pinschers seem to be slim to none. They also can't smoke, shouldn't have to wear glasses, can't be blinded, shouldn't be hurt by a punch in the face or a kick in the nads, wouldn't feel pain, won't have any discernible odor, shouldn't have human perceptions, and can't be choked into unconsciousness (as we've seen Spike do with Drusilla, for example). Clearly, this denies the writers a lot of useful story elements, so... obviously, vampires can't just be dead, necromantically animated corpses.
In fact, if vampires do perceive things the way humans do (Angel talks about recognizing Darla's scent, although he's not aware that she's alive and human again when he does, and he also turns on lights when he walks into dark rooms), can be choked into unconsciousness, do feel pain when thrown into a tombstone or kicked in the scrotum, can and do smoke cigarettes, do have to wear corrective lenses, can be blinded, and do, most definitely, have sex with humans (and, for that matter, humanoid robots)... then, obviously, they're not just dead bodies. They sweat, their hearts beat, they breathe, they have a sexual/reproductive system, must have functioning glands, chemical secretions in their blood, a respiratory system... for that matter, we've seen vampires eat and drink normal food and liquors, so they must have some eliminatory/excretory system, too.
Therefore, obviously, Whedon's vampires in BUFFY and ANGEL are, to some extent, metabolically active and 'alive', just like the vampires in KINDRED: THE EMBRACED. Right?
Well, no... they're not. Hardly an episode of ANGEL, or of BUFFY if Angel or Spike is around, goes by without someone making some reference (and this has to be deliberate) to the fact that vampires don't breathe, their hearts don't beat, etc, etc, yaddity yaddity yaddity. The constant repetition of these basic facts cannot be a coincidence; Whedon and his writers are doing this to reinforce to us that the vampire is a monster, it's horrible, it's an evil necromantic creature of dark magic, not human, DEAD. Spike has even mentioned that he doesn't breathe WHILE LIGHTING UP A CIGARETTE, which would seem to underscore the fact that Whedon and his pals know how stupid this is, and they don't care. The fact that no one - not Slayer Buffy, who is intensely interested in how vampire physiology actually works, not the intellectual and relentlessly curious Giles, and not fanboy SF geek Xander - ever mentions, or comments on, these contradictions, is simply more evidence that the writers are aware of them... and don't care. We're supposed to suspend disbelief and ignore it, like good Germans or cheerful little morons, pretending never to notice that apparently, Giles has had an aneurysm, Buffy has been lobotomized, Xander must be heavily medicated, and every vampire in the world who has ever noted wryly, "Well, actually, I don't breathe" while puffing on a cigarette is clearly an idiot.
Obviously, again, while this is an enormous contradiction, and anyone as intelligent as Joss Whedon and his creative collaborators clearly are could not possibly be unaware of it, they simply choose to ignore it. I sincerely doubt they have any explanation, but one of the most overused words in Whedon's vocabulary as far as BUFFY and ANGEL are concerned is 'mythic'. The 'mythic' elements require that vampires be able to romantically interact with humans, and if you're going to have that, you may as well throw in cigarette smoking (it's a very useful bit of physical business and does wonders for establishing characterization, especially if 'good' Angel doesn't smoke and 'evil' Angel does), physical pain (vampires who don't respond when Sarah kicks them in the jahoobies are kind of boring), and scent (it's more fun and romantic if Angel claims to remember Darla's scent, and let's just ignore the fact that if she's got any odor at all, he should instantly realize she must be alive, and since Angel never previously knew her when she was alive, he couldn't possibly 'know' her scent).
Furthermore, vampires are subject to certain limitations and restrictions that, in all honesty, just can't be explained away easily. They don't reflect in mirrors (but, annoyingly, we've seen them show up on videotape, and they do cast shadows). They burst into flames when sunlight touches their skin. They revert to dust (and not much dust, at that) when killed. A wooden stake shoved through their heart will kill them, but a plastic or metal one won't. They can't enter a private dwelling without the explicit permission of someone who legitimately lives there. They're stronger, faster, and more resistant to physical damage than humans. Supposedly, they have superhuman perceptual powers. They live off human blood. They have limited shapeshifting abilities.
Is it possible to reconcile this massive contradiction and provide some feasible, plausible explanation for the nature of vampiric existence? Well, yes and no. Given what we've been told so far, I think it is, vaguely, possible to come up with... something. It won't completely satisfy, and some things I may have to simply ignore, or disqualify, or say "Well, it didn't happen the way they show us it happening on TV"... but I suspect I can assemble some sort of patchwork pastiche of a metaphysical hypothesis that will, generally, suffice to explain away most if not all of these contradictions.
So, that's the 'yes' part. The 'no' part, however, is that I can only do it for right now. Given that it's clear that Whedon & Crew simply don't care about this stuff, don't take their own internal metaphysical continuity seriously and could care less if they present anything in a reasonably consistent form as long as people keep watching the show, any explanation I suggest at this point is likely... almost certain... to be invalidated by some annoyingly lazy plot stupidity in some future show. As with STAR TREK, the plotters and writers of BUFFY and ANGEL simply don't care if it makes sense or not. It's 'mythic' for Spock to be a half-human, half-alien crossbreed, so it doesn't matter if that's senseless. We want people in the Federation to still get old and have various physical defects (blindness, male pattern baldness) so we ignore the fact that a matter-energy converter capable of creating three dimensional fantasy settings in a holodeck, self aware artificial life forms, dissolving solid objects, including human beings, into energy and then reforming them alive and functional again, and making nourishing food, should be perfectly capable of regenerating non-working optic nerves and resetting an older person to a younger, more ideal metabolic age. We want Data to be the only android in the universe, so we ignore the fact that we should be able to run off hundreds of Xeroxes of him in the transporter.
We want the crewmen to use control panels, so we ignore the fact that they should all be cybernetically hooked into the Enterprise's central computer... or at least, Data should. Data is always just fast, smart, and strong enough to do whatever the plot requires, but never enough to foil the bad guys before the final five minutes, just as Worf, Riker, and Picard are never competent enough to prevent the Enterprise from being taken over by alien terrorists, and Deanna's powers always work just well enough to advance the plot but never well enough to short circuit it. Everything is subordinate to the story, nothing works consistently or intelligently, there is no sensible internal continuity... and, on BUFFY and ANGEL, vampires are perfectly happy to remind the human standing three feet away that they don't breathe, while lighting a cigarette and taking a deep drag on it and then breathing out smoke... and the human is always too brain-dead to say "Uh... gee..."
I will say right now that while I think I can come up with a coherent explanation for how vampires can say they don't breathe while lighting a cigarette, and how they can have sex lives when they shouldn't actually have working metabolisms, and how Angel can think he recognizes Darla's scent without realizing that she's, at that point, alive... and I may even be able to explain why vampires don't reflect in mirrors but have shown up, a few times, on videotape, why they cast shadows, and why they need an invitation to enter an 'owned' private area... I can't explain why no one ever talks about this on the shows. Giles has enormous intellectual curiousity about occult matters, Buffy should want to know how vampire physiology works to improve her ability to kill them, and various others should at least notice and comment on the contradiction... and they don't... and I can't explain it, because the reason is, the WRITERS DON'T WANT THEM TO. Beyond that, there is no explanation. I hate that, but, well, that's how it is.
Still... physically, what is a vampire? What is its body composed of, that will cast a shadow and will be recorded on videotape, but that will not show up in a mirror? That will burst into flames when exposed to sunlight, that is stronger and faster and more resistant to physical trauma than a human body, that cannot enter an area inhabited by a living human being without permission, and that turns to dust when its animating energy is dispelled?
I hypothesize that the process which a human body undergoes during that day or so that it takes to be converted into a vampire body (as we saw with Darla's re-vampirization in ANGEL) is similar to the process of petrification that exists in nature, with certain plants. When a tree or plant becomes petrified, what happens is that over the course of years, the original biological elements of its cells are very gradually replaced by mineral elements... so gradually that the infusing minerals take on the same shape and appearance as the original biological cells. In effect, the original biological cells act as a matrix, or as a sort of jello mold, for the incoming mineral deposits, and what you end up with is a gradual build up of minerals in the exact shape of a tree trunk, or a plant of some sort.
This same process, vastly speeded up, is what happens when a human body is transformed by the vampiric mutation. Supernatural necromantic energy flows into it from some extradimensional source and replaces all the original human organic matter... but it does it gradually, and in such a way as to mimic the original cell structure. And the organic matter is not completely replaced, but is only 99.9999 some odd number of 9s % replaced. A tiny amount of the original human cellular matter remains as a template, spread molecularly thin throughout the replacement, vampire tissue which is made up of unnatural, demonic, otherdimensional energy in more or less solid form.
This, naturally, explains the supernatural and superhuman powers of the vampire. But how does the vampire simulate life, such as breathing (to smoke a cigarette), or normal human sight (as when a vampire turns on a light in a dark room, or fears having Drusilla put its eyes out), or a sense of smell (as when Angel insists he 'knows Darla's scent'), or, and most explicitly, when it has sex, with other vampires, and with living human beings, and with humanoid robots?
Basically, I hypothesize that the demonic, necromantic energy that makes up most of the vampire body is extremely responsive to the animating consciousness' psychic impulses. Probably, over the course of thousands of years of existence, any vampires who 'live' that long gradually forget what actual, physical, metabolic life was like. These vampires would, theoretically, start to behave more like 'living' corpses... losing their 'human' perceptions and having them replaced by more direct psychic perceptions, ceasing to respond to purely physical stimuli, and, most likely, gaining more and more unlimited capacity for shifting the shape of their necromantic energy bodies into other forms... such as the classical vampires are supposed to be able to.
However, relatively 'young' vampires still remember very strongly what it was like to be alive, and they still respond as if alive. Spike, while he's consciously aware of the fact that he doesn't 'breathe', or at least, doesn't have to, also subconsciously wants to smoke a cigarette... so, while he's smoking a cigarette, the necromantic energy in the shape of his lungs 'works'. When Spike and Harmony get horny and want to screw, their subconscious minds activate the appropriate anatomical parts, and, similarly, when Spike wants to screw his Buffy-'bot, or Angel wants to go to bed with Buffy or some other human babe, his subconscious reactivates his reproductive system.
Of course, a reproductive system composed of necromantic energy is only a simulation, and no actual pregnancy would be possible... but to all physical appearances, Angel would be perfectly functional. To a human lover who expected such things, there would probably even be a convincing sensory illusion of an ejaculation, although if such ejaculate had any actual physical existence, I have to assume it would be primarily ectoplasmic, and most likely, would just fade away or evaporate fairly quickly after the sex act was over.
In other words, a vampire's body is dead... inert... unbreathing, its heart still... none of its biological organs functional... except when the vampire consciously or unconsciously desires its body, in some way, to function in the 'human' manner to which it is accustomed. Then, temporarily, that particular system of the vampire's necromantically duplicated body becomes active. Spike breathes when he wants to smoke a cigarette or vibrate his larynx in order to speak; otherwise, he doesn't. Angel gets an erection when he wants to go to bed with Buffy; otherwise, he doesn't. Drusilla doesn't breathe unless she really wants to, but she isn't aware of this; thus, when Spike 'chokes' her from behind, her mind believes she should pass out... so she does. Or perhaps it was simply her way of surrendering, of not having to choose, between Spike and Angel. Or perhaps Spike took her by surprise, and while it seemed he was choking her, he was actually psychically forcing his will on hers, and making her go unconscious for a time. Vampires feel pain when punched in the jaw or kicked in the naughty bits, because they think they're supposed to. Basically, it's all psychosomatic, all in the mind of the vampire... but a vampire has to live a very very long time before they start to realize this and take conscious control over the necromantic energy that their bodies are now comprised of.
If we posit an unnatural, extradimensional, demonic energy as the basis for vampire bodies, patterned after the human bodies they are replacing, virtually everything becomes possible. An unnatural energy does not have to follow the laws of our universe (and could behave entirely differently in another universe, as we've recently seen in ANGEL). Therefore, in regard to all the various supernatural enhancements and limitations the vampire functions with, we could just at this point just, basically, say 'magic' and leave it at that.
Still, it may be useful, or at least, fun for me, and entertaining for my hypothetical audience, to explore exactly why vampires can do some things, and can't do others.
Vampire strength, speed, and resistance to damage is easy. If a vampire's necromantic energy body is more amenable to his own psychic manipulation, then most of a vampire's strength will, actually, be telekinetic, or that of the vampire's will, expressed through manipulation of the energy form he or she inhabits. This would explain why more highly motivated and ferocious vampires often seem to be faster and stronger and fiercer combatants than the dumber or more apathetic ones, and especially, why vampires seem so clumsy and vulnerable when they first get up out of their graves... their remaining human consciousness, having just awakened in a strangely transformed body, may not be fully attuned to the necromantic energy they now inhabit. They may also not be fully awake. Either way, they won't manipulate their bodies with their full capacity, and are fairly easy prey for any superhuman chickie poo with a piece of sharp wood who may be hanging around vulture like, ready to speed them on their way to Dustball City.
Why do vampires burst into flames when sunlight hits them? Uh... here's one where I'm just going to shrug and say 'it's magic'. Or it's possible that Earthly sunlight contains some wavelength of radiation that is missing from the sunlight of 'demon dimensions', and that acts on necromantically energized 'flesh' the same way intense heat would act on ours. In fact, vampire flesh bursting into flames in sunlight may be the Undead equivalent of radiation poisoning, significantly accelerated and condensed in time.
Perhaps the reason Demons 'lost their grip' on this dimension had something to do with the Sun's moving from one phase to another? Or maybe prehistoric Earth, back in Demon days, was perpetually wrapped in clouds, and when that changed, the Demons had to leave, because the unnatural energy they used as a basis for so much of their power, or perhaps that they even formed physical bodies out of (remember, the Mayor's Ascension took place in the darkness of a total eclipse) was damaged and destroyed by the Sun's radiation?
Vampires turning to dust when they are destroyed is fairly easy... most of their 'body' is actually energy. When something happens to dispel that energy... and there seem to be two central nexuses of this energy, one in the brain, and one in the center of the chest... it vanishes, leaving behind only the remnants of the original human body... the 'dust' that settles to the ground. The energy's mimicry of the human body may be so complete as to make the recreated 'heart' and 'brain' necessary to the continued coherency of the vampire body. It may well be that a stake to the 'brain' would also kill a vampire, but the skull is generally too hard to make this feasible, and the chest generally makes a much better target anyway.
Wood, for whatever reason, seems to be a mystically or supernaturally imbued material, in a way that plastic and metal are not. Perhaps wood retains some essential element of natural Earthly life that is inimical to otherwordly energies; an elemental force that plastics or metals do not have. Thus, when thrust into a nexus of necromantic energy, as could well exist in the center of the chest where the major circulatory system of the human body was, it could well instantly disrupt those energies, causing the seemingly solid energy of the vampire body to instantaneously disperse, and the relatively small amount of organic remains to crumble to the ground as dust.
Given that the brain is the most sophisticated, complex, and vital organ in the human body, it only makes sense that a necromantically duplicated brain would still be an essential organ in the vampire body, if not necessarily for the same thing. The various nodes that command the energies of the various different portions of the body would still lead into the brain, and the necromantic brain duplicate might well still be constantly active holding the necromantic energy patterns of the vampire body into a coherent matrix. Segregate the brain from the rest of the necromantic body and the energy flow would be interrupted and thus, the necromantic energy would almost instantly disperse... and again, the organic remnants of the original human body would sift to the ground as dust. (We have some indirect confirmation of the brain's vital function in vampires anyway, with Spike's chip.)
Why don't vampires reflect in mirrors? Perhaps most troubling about this is the fact that not only does vampire flesh not cast a reflection, but even the clothes vampires wear don't reflect... which is truly weird. One theory that might explain this is that vampires only really have one suit of clothing... the set they were buried in, which, like their own bodies, is also transformed by the necromantic energy flowing into them, and becomes susceptible to some direct mental manipulation. Very young vampires haven't learned how to do this yet, which is why Buffy could spot them sometimes simply due to the fact that they were still wearing the same outfit they'd died in. However, older vamps like Angel and Darla can shift their necromantically imbued 'burial' outfits around to look like different wardrobes, ensembles, outfits, and items of apparel, and may even do it without conscious thought, or at least, without bothering to mention it to mere humans. Doubtless, vampires also buy new 'real' clothes from time to time just because they like them, and those clothes most likely would reflect in a mirror... we've just never seen it happen.
Or, alternatively, even 'real' clothes quickly become suffused with necromantic energy when a vampire wears them, and thus, take on the supernatural aspects of that energy... which would explain why even the blankets that Spike and Angel cover up with out in the daylight start to smoke and burn after they've been wearing them too long... and why vampire's outfits don't seem to show up in mirrors, any more than vampire flesh does.
As to why necromantically imbued substances cast no reflections... it's magic! I myself don't even know why certain surfaces DO reflect images in them, and I'm not entirely certain modern science has an adequate explanation, either... I know I've never had even a physics professor supply me with a good explanation for a heat shimmer induced mirage of water on the highway ahead of me in the summer.
Why do vampires cast shadows? Well, for all we know, they don't, in the sunlight. We've only seen them cast shadows from artificial light, and artificial light, like other technological artifacts such as videotape, may well interact with necromantic energy in ways not taken into account by the legends and literature about vampires. Perhaps vampires don't cast shadows in sunlight or moonlight, don't reflect in 'natural' objects like shiny surfaces, water, and glass... but do block artificial light, and make an impression on videotape stock. We know vampires can be caused pain and even stunned by tasers (Wolfram & Hart has used them on Angel), so perhaps, as mystic creatures, they are merely susceptible to the influences of high technology... or, at least, affected by them in a normal fashion.
Why can't vampires enter a private, 'owned' dwelling space without specific invitation? Why, in fact, is the imposed limitation so specific and powerful that vampiric flesh can interact with the 'no invitation' barrier as if it were a physically solid partition? Most likely, I suspect it has to do with the sensitivity of necromantically imbued material to psychic energy. People tend to universally regard their private quarters as havens, sanctum sanctorums, their safe places, their private territory, their dens... places where they are safe and secure, where no one else is allowed to come without specific invitation. Normal human bodies, not overwhelmingly sensitive to psychic energy, can ignore such implicit wishes, boundaries, and parameters, but vampiric flesh is very sensitive and responsive to such. Furthermore, normal human bodies are of Earth, natural to this world and material plane, and as such, can move freely within it. Vampiric flesh is composed of supernatural, otherworldly, extraplanar energy. It can move freely in any place where psychic barriers have not been put up against it, but in specific, limited areas that are held as 'private', it needs permission to enter.
It's interesting (if a necessary plot device in that particular episode) that Angel once advised Gunn that no invitation was necessary for a vampire to enter a motel room, or other public space (and this seems true, because he previously had entered Faith's transitory quarters to save Xander from being choked to death by her without invitation), and I personally suspect the difference must lie, as with many supernatural matters, in a written covenant. In other words, where a lease has been signed, private space is considered to be 'owned', and an invitation is required to enter. Where the room is being paid for on an interval by interval basis, with no agreement extending into the future for more than a few hours or days, the space is transitory, and no psychic barriers form.
For what it's worth, in my own RPG, I allow any naturally sentient creature with a soul to attempt to 'claim' any defined area (usually a circle they draw, as a circle is a mystic symbol of considerable power, being endless) simply by repeating a simple incantation to that effect ("I claim this as mine, I claim this as mine, I claim this as mine") three times. This has no legally binding effect, of course, but it may very well establish the boundary as something an Undead would need permission to cross... but there is a Willpower roll off involved when the incantation is made, and I don't tell the player involved if they succeeded or not. (Most people don't have enough knowledge of magical lore or the supernatural to even make the attempt, anyway.) I realize that what happens in my RPG has no bearing on what happens in BUFFY or ANGEL, I'm merely explaining where the ideas I'm using came from.
Crosses (and, presumably, other holy symbols) seem to affect vampires exactly the way white hot metal would affect humans (forcing them to back away in pain from close proximity, leaving burns and brands on their flesh if they come into contact with them), and holy water seems to work on them like a powerful acid. While some of this could be psychic, with the holy symbol acting as a limited focus for the wielder's own subconscious telekinetic powers, this doesn't even begin to explain 'holy water'. As I myself have never seen Buffy or Giles explain where she gets her holy water from (and to be honest, I haven't seen anyone try to use holy water on a vamp since, like, the second season), I'm left merely to conjecture that certain religious organizations have the ability to invoke through prayerful incantation certain aspects and supernatural powers that are inimical to the necromantic energy vampires are composed of.
Call these supernatural powers the Higher Powers, if you like, but whatever the case, the Catholic Church, through prayer, seems to be able to 'bless' certain objects with the power to disrupt, if only in the specific area touched, necromantic energy. Vampires have, on the other hand, been shown to be able to enter freely into churches (although it seemed to come as a surprise to them when they did it, too), so apparently God, or the Higher Powers, only have power on this Earth when specifically invoked by someone who knows how.
Are all the crosses used to repel vampires on BUFFY and ANGEL produced by, and therefore, we assume, at one time at least blessed by, the Catholic Church? It seems safe to assume so. I've yet to see anyone on BUFFY or ANGEL simply twist-tie two popsicle sticks together and hold a vampire off with it, so it seems that the holy icon must have been prayed over, and the Higher Powers invoked upon it, at some point in its past.
Again, I'm curious where the Watchers get their crosses and holy water, though. Do they have a deal with the Catholic Church? And if so, why aren't more Watchers and Slayers overtly religious?
Fire is also harmful and even potentially lethal to vampires, and again, I'd surmise that this is because fire is an elemental force of this material realm, and probably possesses certain natural mystical powers of its own against unnatural, alien intrusions into this plane from outside. Or, on the other hand, necromantic substances may simply be very flammable... although in that case, you'd think Darla and Drusilla would have burned to ashes in a heartbeat when Angel lit them up earlier this season. So, no, it's probably an elemental mystic thing.
(The mythic charms against vampirism - fire, running water, exposure to sunlight in the open air - seem to reflect three of the four medieval elements of alchemy - fire, water, and air - and earth, or Earth, could well be represented by the wooden stake that kills the bloodsuckers. Various other mythological herbs that work against vampires - roses, garlic - could also represent earth, or be magical plants that are imbued with some sort of elemental earth power. Of course, on Buffy-Earth, vampires only seem troubled by sunlight, fire, and wooden stakes.)
How does Angel manage to 'know Darla's scent'? This bit, which is either a completely moronic and utterly self indulgent oversight on the part of the episode's writer, or an amazingly subtle and brilliant hint as to exactly how vampire perceptions work, certainly forces the hard working continuity obsessed BUFFY fan like myself to put in some overtime trying to figure out exactly howintheHELL we're going to explain THIS away. First, Angel shouldn't expect Darla to have a scent, since she's a vampire, and presumably, vampires don't sweat, nor does their flesh flake off into minute, microscopic particles that are what the scent receptors actually pick up. Second, Angel shouldn't have a sense of smell, because he's dead, and as he frequently reminds us, he doesn't breathe. As Angel had never previously known Darla as a human, he should by no means 'know her scent', and as a 200+ year old vampire himself, he should certainly have long since learned that humans smell different from vampires, because humans, you know, sweat. (And go to the bathroom, and eat things other than blood.)
There's simply no possible way to make this make sense. If Angel does have a sense of smell (and I've hypothesized that vampires can turn their human equivalent biological apparatus on and off subconsciously if they want to, so he could, and in fact, he's been frequently shown to have superhuman perceptions, usually expressed as a sense of smell), he still should have been instantly aware that Darla was alive, not a vampire.
But, wait. Actually, there is a way to make this all make sense, and this is where the whole 'either it's just plain stupid or it's utterly brilliant and subtle' thing comes in. See, Angel no doubt thinks he 'knows Darla's scent', because he himself isn't aware that vampire senses aren't human senses, and therefore, when his vampire brain picks up various stimuli and other data with its enhanced psychic perceptions, it translates them into familiar human terms... like aromas. So Angel believes he has a very sensitive sense of smell, but only when he wants to have one (someone who actually had a very sensitive olfactory sense would not voluntarily choose to live anywhere near, much less in the heart of, even a small human settlement, much less frickin' L.A.)... but in fact, what he has is a sort of direct psychic perception of his immediate surroundings (most likely all vampires do, at least potentially) that, as I say, his brain interprets into a 'sense of smell'.
Thus, to Angel, Darla has always has a particular scent, and that scent would not be changed whether she was alive or dead, because it's actually a 'psychic aroma' peculiar to her particular and individual personality and essential identity. (We can argue that the presence of a soul should change this somewhat, since Angel has never previously 'smelled' Darla with one, and perhaps it did, but not so much as to make her unrecognizable to him.)
I should acknowledge at this point that calling this a 'moronic, self indulgent, and just plain stupid' plot device was, perhaps, a bit harsh. As a writer myself, I'm aware that what the author was attempting to accomplish with Angel's declaration of "I know your scent, Darla" was imparting to the TV audience the essential information that Angel had good reason to know this was Darla despite the fact that he, of all people, should know she was dead, because he'd personally staked her. Tossing in an "I know your scent" line underscored that Angel was absolutely sure it was her and was, to a certain extent, put there to forestall the more thoughtful viewer wondering "What the hell was Angel doing, he knows Darla is dead, why didn't he believe her when she said she was just some normal chick who looked like Darla?"
However, I think there should have been less confusing ways to establish Angel's certainty, like, perhaps, the time honored unique birthmark or tattoo, neither of which we would have seen before, of course, but which Angel could have referred to at the time. (Hell, they could even have opened that episode with a flashback the entire point of which would have been to show us the previously unseen identifying mark. They've done it before.) The whole 'scent' thing is just way too confusing... unless, of course, some deranged whack-o who clearly has no life and far too much time on his hands like me comes along to try and explain it all.
A vampire's capacity to switch from normal human appearance to Demonic Happy Face would simply seem to be a very limited and specific shapeshifting power, one that they have little or no conscious control over at first but that simply happens when they're enraged, or about to feed; however, older vampires learn to switch from one 'face' to the other at will.
To sum up: the process of transformation from human to vampire would seem to involve the gradual replacement of human cells with an otherworldly, demonic, necromantic energy that takes the same gross shape and form as the organs and body parts it is replacing, in much the same matter as the natural process of petrification works. This energy is unnatural, and therefore, not subject to precisely the same laws of physics as substances native to this particular plane and material realm are. It is also more sensitive and responsive to psychic energy, so that although its physical, solid shape mimics that of a natural human body in every detail down to the cellular level, these organs and various metabolic systems only function when the animating entity consciously or subconsciously desires them to.
While I still think that the being who claimed to be 'Dracula' was most likely a demon trying, for reasons of its own, to get over on Buffy, I must admit that all the advanced powers this entity demonstrated are in line with what an immortal being possessed of the capacities I've outlined above could eventually learn to do, especially assuming that entity had had some psychic gifts already as a mortal. So Dracula could well be a vampire, simply a very very old one who has long since mastered his necromantically energized form to a point where a wooden stake through the heart causes only a momentary disruption of his form, who has learned to shift that body from one form to another, and who has developed his own psychic gifts to a point where he can easily enter and dominate the minds of most normal humans.
The process also involves the transformation of the original consciousness into a more brutal, anti-social, amoral, and sociopathic entity, due to the influence of the extradimensional demonic energy itself, and the lack of influence of a soul, which loses contact with the body and mind of the transformed person as they become a vampire. To an extent, from a 'demonic' standpoint, which is to say, from the point of view of an individual self aware intelligent entity without a soul, the conversion of human to vampire could almost be seen as a blessing... a restoration of the individual to the natural freedom of life without the behavior modifying, mind controlling influence of the soul that forces higher values upon the unenlightened self interest that is an individual personality's natural state.
Exactly what this means in term of the actual function and definition of that strange component of a sentient being's make up called a 'soul', we will explore in our next section.
B. THE SOUL
Okay. Just what exactly is 'the soul'?
The typical idea of most religions regarding the 'soul' is that it is basically an invisible, intangible duplicate for the body, that survives the body's death, and that carries with it the essential identity, or the 'real you', either to some afterlife, or into another mortal vessel, depending on what you believe. The 'soul' as such, when it does not reach the afterlife, or take on a new mortal incarnation, becomes a 'ghost'.
There is much in Buffy-lore to support this. First, Buffy has fought entities she assumed were ghosts. In "I Only Have Eyes For You", Buffy became aware of, and helped to resolve, what she felt at the time was a haunting... two spirits, frozen in place by the horrors of the events surrounding their deaths in 1955, forcing others to relive the events of those deaths, until somehow the cycle could be broken and they could be freed from their obsessions to go on to wherever it is that spirits go on Buffy-Earth.
Second, in "Becoming" we saw both occasions on which Angel's soul returned to him. Through a flashback to 1898, we saw the original curse take effect, and at the very end of "Becoming", we saw Willow's recasting of the curse take effect. In both cases, Angel seemed to become an entirely different person than he had been without his soul, and in both cases, he acted as if he had no memory of what had transpired with his body in the time his soul had been gone. In 1898, he seemed lost, saying "Where am I? I can't remember..." while in the modern day, he looked at Buffy and said "It seems like months since I've seen you."
All of these are strong arguments that the 'soul' is no more nor less than the actual essential identity of a human being that lives on after the death of its body, and seem to be insurmountable evidence supporting that particular hypothesis.
One straightforward problem with this is that in this model, the soul is the essential entity that provides sentience and self awareness and the individual personality, and the body is only a material form it wears during existence in this material realm... like a warm coat or other article of clothing. Upon death, the soul, which is the actual, true identity of a person, including their personality, self awareness, point of view, individuality, and sentience, travels on, either to some sort of upper, non material realm where the soul can exist with a mortal husk, or on into another body.
What's wrong with that picture? Nothing, in the real world, where we could assume that all sentient, intelligent, self aware, individual creatures possessed of complex personalities have souls. However, in the Buffy Universe, there is a vast population of entities known as demons who all seem to be intelligent, self aware individuals possessed of complex personalities... and, we're told, none of them have souls. Therefore, clearly, sentience and self awareness arise from something else, as we've previously examined in our attempt to define what a 'vampire', physically and psychically, is.
Moreover, if the 'soul' is the essential identity-entity, then creatures without souls - vampires, demons - should not survive the death of their bodies. That soulless creatures DO survive the deaths of their bodies, and have their essential identity preserved... somewhere... has been demonstrated beyond logical argument by last season's resurrection of Darla by Wolfram & Hart.
Another problem with the 'soul as animating ghost' model is that it makes the character of Angel essentially pointless, characterizes Giles as a sadistic prick for not letting Angel know he reasonably shouldn't feel at all guilty for what was done with and by his body in his absence, and shows the rest of Angel's associates to be pretty goddam stupid for not figuring this out themselves. Hell, Xander reads comic books, he should have been all over this from the outset.
In addition, not only is Giles a sadistic prick for not mentioning this to Angel, and Xander rather an idiot for not realizing it, but as briefly mentioned already, this also basically takes the center and heart right out of the essential characterization of Angel . I mean, it's nice in that Angel really has no reason to wallow in guilt and we can admire him wholeheartedly and not be troubled, overly, by what that scuzzy demon in his body does when his soul is out on vacation somewhere. However, it does utterly invalidate the central conflict that fuels Angel and makes him into an interesting and fascinating character, and, well, that's a problem. If 'Angel' bears no moral responsibility for the actions of 'Angelus' when Angelus is active and in charge of the body they share, then he's considerably less interesting, and we're being lied to in every episode of his series where he tries to 'redeem' himself from something that he's not even remotely responsible for.
Furthermore, given what Giles has told the various Scoobies over and over again about vampires, nearly any of them (but especially Buffy) should have figured this out long since, and also explained it to Angel. If in fact 'Angel' is represented by the soul which comes and goes, and 'Angelus' is the demon who remains regardless of whether the soul is present or not, then Angel has nothing to feel guilty over, any more than any normal living being would if they committed grievous crimes while possessed by a demon, or under the influence of behavior altering drugs they had not voluntarily consumed.
On the other hand, if vampires do not retain some essential aspect of their former humanity, again, Angel has nothing to feel guilty over, Spike could never have fallen in love with Buffy or conceived of affection for Dawn and Joyce, and Harmony would have had no reason not to chow down on Cordelia the instant she found out Cordie was alone in Angel's office.
If I seem to be obsessing rather a great deal on Angel in this discussion, it's because it's through Angel that I have obtained the vast majority of my information on just what a soul is in the Buffy metaphysics, by watching how his behavior has radically altered depending on whether his soul is attached to his body at any given time or not.
We also know that, while Angel was originally, apparently, in a state of amnesia regarding his vampiric actions when the curse first took effect, his memories of those actions did eventually return. That was the whole point of the gypsies' curse; they didn't want to cure Angel of being a monster, they wanted to torture him forever with guilt and remorse by giving him his soul back. To that extent, assuming gypsy mystics have some actual knowledge as to what a soul is, it doesn't sound like they were basically bringing back a separate entity... why bother? That entity isn't guilty of anything, why torture him?... but rather, like they were restoring the conscience, the higher moral reasoning center, of the entity that had wronged them, and that they hated.
In other words, it seems very much as if the gypsies were aware that the absence or presence of a 'soul' does not actually change the identity of a particular sentient being. The 'soul' is not the spirit-body and essence of personality that most religions believe it is; rather, it is an intangible element of sentient spirituality that provides what we call 'conscience'... the capacity to care for others, to regard others as being just as important as we ourselves our, to empathize with them, to feel their pain, and to feel remorse and guilt for actions we have taken in the past that caused harm to them.
Again, it's worth repeating... the soul, which we know exists in Buffy metaphysics, and whose attachment to a sentient, self aware entity seems to be the basic defining factor setting humanity apart from demonkind, cannot simply be the intangible, immaterial embodiment of consciousness and self awareness that carries the individual personality and intelligence of an entity on to the next stage of existence after the death of the body. This cannot be true for two overwhelming reasons: first, there are many self aware, conscious, and intelligent entities in the Buffy fiction-verse that do not have souls. Second, if 'good' Angel and 'bad' Angel are entirely separate entities defined only by the presence, or lack thereof, of Angel's soul, then 'good' Angel has no more reason to feel guilty about the actions of 'bad' Angel than someone would if their body committed crimes while being mentally controlled against their will by an entirely separate entity... in fact, that's exactly what would be happening.
The soul does not provide sentience or self awareness, and it is not the actual, immaterial mental, psychic, and intellectual essence of a being that is immortal and survives the death of the body, as is generally believed in most religions that are based around the principles of post-death survival of the individual personality.
So... if all this is what the soul isn't... then what is it? What does it do?
What the soul does seem to provide is a faculty for higher moral reasoning, for empathy, for the capacity to see others as being real people, whose wants and desires and needs are as valid as one's own. Without a soul, sentient beings seem to become the textbook definition of sociopathic, and lose all ability to regard other beings as anything more than objects - tools, toys, or annoying obstacles. In fact, this seems to pretty much sum up the demonic attitude towards life, existence, and other sentient beings... they like those who provide a useful function to them or whose continued existence gratifies them in some way, play with those they find interesting, ignore the vast majority, and will ruthlessly destroy those who get in their way. In other words, those without souls regard themselves as the only valid beings in existence. They are egoistic and utterly self centered; to them, the entire world is a subjective theater in which they are the center of the universe and everything else... including all other people/sentient beings... are simply objects, to be manipulated as they will. All relationships with other sentient beings are based on relative power level; to those without souls, it's all a dominance game, where one either rules or submits or is destroyed.
So what is the soul? What is that intangible spiritual artifact that changes all this, that allows an individual to see other individuals as worthwhile fellows, companions, brethren, kin, or comrades? What makes the very ideas of compassion, mercy, and love possible, feasible, acceptable, desirable, laudable?
My first hypothesis is that the soul is, basically, in the words of Rene Belloq, "a radio for talking to God". To put it less obscurely, the 'soul' is a psychic connection to the Higher Powers. I suspect its original function was probably something rather self centered on the part of the Higher Powers... a psychic or emotional umbilical cord through which the Higher Powers could feed on the psychic energy of lower, mortal beings, or perhaps, if we don't want them to have been quite that nasty at the beginning of time, then, at the very least, it was a connection through which they could communicate more clearly with these lower mortal beings, and perhaps help to protect them from the Demons (the big, non human Demons) that most likely preyed on them back in prehistory. Or the soul may have originally been intended to be exactly what it seems to function as today... a link, a conduit, a shining, silvery rope by which the essence of a living sentient being can travel after death into a higher plane (the plane of the Higher Powers, perhaps). Perhaps this was originally simply designed as an act of mercy by the Higher Powers, to allow the sentient mortal creatures preyed on and tormented by the Greater Demons to escape after the death of their bodies to another realm. However, this active link and spiritual lifeline works as a two way channel between the Higher Powers and the lower mortals who are gifted with it, and thus, those lower mortals who have 'souls' take on certain psychic attributes of the Higher Powers... respect for the lives, desires, feelings, and right to exist of other mortal beings, the capacity to bond with another sentient being whether it serves a pragmatic purpose to do so or not, the ability to identify with a social group. While the Higher Powers may have merely done the psychic equivalent of fixing a radio beacon onto certain mortal victims of the Greater Demons, what they may have ended up doing is providing consciences to these primitive, self aware mortals.
And in effect, they created the first race of 'humans', as distinct from 'demons'.
Under this mechanism, then, what is going on when the Gypsies, or Willow, manage to cast a spell and summon up Angel's 'soul' from wherever it is it went to when Angel became a vampire? In effect, Angel's higher spiritual lifeline is being restored to him, and with it, his connection to the Higher Powers is once more activated. His 'conscience' is restored, as is his empathy, his capacity to feel unselfish affection and friendship, and his ability to feel guilt and remorse over his actions.
Without his 'soul', Angel still exists, but like all sentient individuals untouched by the grace of some higher entity, he's an entirely self centered, egoistic, anti-social psychopath who does whatever he wants to... and Angel's brutal nature seems to have a natural capacity for the enjoyment of cruelty and depravity that is extraordinary. Angel has a dark side, like all of us, and in him, that dark side is a brilliantly malevolent evil genius. Without his connection to the Higher Powers, his humanity, his conscience, his soul, to keep his personal darkness in check, Angel is one of the most horribly evil sentient beings who has ever lived... and it's that knowledge that makes him sick with guilt and remorse, when his soul is in place. Angel at his most evil is just as 'real' as Angel at his most noble and heroic. His dark side is as much a part of his nature as his good side... and it's knowing that which is Angel's chief torment.
So, what precisely does having a soul mean? Well, it seems to mean that there is an active link in place between some higher plane and the mortal, sentient being here on Earth. As long as that link is in place, the actual essence of the mortal being, upon the death of the mortal body, is drawn up the link to that higher plane, where, presumably, it is judged by the Higher Powers and sent to some appropriate place... heaven, Hell, a new incarnation down on Earth... whatever. But... and I've said this before, but I can't stress it enough... the soul is not, in any way, the actual essential identity entity of the individual that survives after death. The soul is a lifeline that guarantees that the immortal part of all sentient beings goes somewhere... a higher plane, probably... where it will be judged, and dealt with appropriately, based on its actions in its past, material incarnation. That would seem to the primary purpose of the soul... although as a serendipitious secondary purpose, the presence of this 'connection' to a Higher Plane allows those sentient individual beings who have it to at least have the possibility of developing a higher moral philosophy than the 'me first' attitude otherwise typical to all lower orders, regardless of their relative intelligence. In other words, the soul has the capacity to develop into and function as a conscience... that little voice inside us that tells us the difference between right and wrong. However, how much we listen to that little voice is still a matter of sentient choice, there are those who were raised since childhood to ignore that little voice, or whose formative experiences taught them to anyway, and there are probably even human beings born with the soul-attachment who, due to some unfortunate physical deformity, can't 'receive' the signals from the Higher Powers very well, or who intermittently lose their ability to pick up the transmission, and thus, suffer from occasional lapses into sociopathic behavior.
And we all hate that explanation, don't we?
The idea that the 'soul', that thing which sets us, as human beings, apart from the rest of the mob, is some sort of artificial psychic device fastened to our distant ancestors back in antiquity by some hoity toity Higher Powers for obscure reasons of their own... no way, dude! That's not happening. The concept that this essential psychic component to our individual identities that allows us to attain higher ethical development is imposed on us from above and not a 'natural' part of our consciousnesses... that's just emotionally repugnant to us. So, let's take a look at an alternative theory, the "It Jest Grew There Maw" Hypothesis, as follows:
In distant prehistory, back in the mists of antiquity, those hominids who would one day be humans began to evolve what can best be described as a 'psychic organ'. While this organ had no physical component, it nonetheless was a real adaptation in neo-mankind's non-physical consciousness. Call it a mutation if you will, but it was one that bred true, and proved its survival value, and thus, was passed on to succeeding generations.
What this 'psychic organ' did, basically, was allow each individual hominid who possessed it to form a rudimentary connection to every other hominid who possessed it. In essence, it allowed our remotest ancestors to form a sort of primal telepathic network between themselves. This network wasn't powerful enough for most to be consciously aware of, so it became a sort of mass racial subconscious... but it was enough to allow those protohumans to form, accept, and internalize various social concepts, like the family, the tribe, the race, and eventually, the nation... and also more individual social concepts, like friendship, trust, companionship... and love.
Were there other hominids around at this time not blessed with this random psychic mutation that jump started the social evolution of what would become humanity? Perhaps. If so, the two groups would have rapidly grown apart, as those not gifted with 'souls' continued in their chaotic, egoistic, sociopathic, non-cooperative, doubtless violent and confrontational manner... and as those with them, humanity's direct ancestors, began to draw together into groups, teams, families, tribes, nations... social organizations aimed at mutual support and survival.
Several dynamics would have evolved between the two distinct groups. When the social protohumans with 'souls' could be caught alone, they made fine and easy prey, because their new 'empathy sense' weakened their naturally violent and viciously individualistic natures. They were naturally inclined to 'trust', to try to help someone they saw in need, and to behave in other completely irrational and utterly insane ways...which would allow a cunning soul-free hominid to trap them easily. In general, this dynamic would work to create, enforce, and increase hostility and distrust between the soulful and soulfree populations, and to force the newly socialized protohumans to draw together even more tightly, from outside predator pressure. The protohumans might well be driven into migrations by such predator pressure into new geographic regions free of the attacking soul-free creatures, and certainly, the intense competition between the groups would impel the protohumans to develop new innovations in defense... new technologies, new organization techniques, better methods of communication, improved weapons... which would have a synergistic inter-relationship with the fact that the protohumans, being already enmeshed in a psychic, racial subconscious telepathy web, would already have a far better capacity for cooperating in the invention and implementation of such innovations.
The end result would be that human evolution... social, intellectual, technological, and even genetic... would tend to leap ahead of that of their soul-free fellows, and that humans themselves would be far more inclined to an orderly approach to their day to day life, with higher and higher levels of social organization arising from each succeeding one. Increasing Order would successively rise from previous chaos, in a reversal of the normal entropic process. While 'demons'... the soul-free populations... would continue to be mostly chaotic and unorganized, fighting amongst themselves for dominance and being able to, at best, organize themselves into mutually beneficial cooperative unions for a very short term. Those individual 'demons' smart enough to think up innovative and effective advancements in any area would keep them to themselves, and thus, the demonic race as a whole and as a collective would not benefit from the genius of its individual members.
Eventually, mankind, with its strange, unforeseen 'psychic organ' mutation, would come to utterly dominate the Earth.
Basically then, in this hypothesis, the 'soul' is a non-physical component of individual human identity evolved by our distant, protohuman ancestors that through a subconscious telepathic network link with every other human, gives us all a rudimentary social consciousness... a concept that we are not alone, that we belong to something greater than ourselves, that the group can be as important, or more important, than the individual, and most important of all, that another individual, or every other individual, is as important, and valid, as we ourselves are.
Demons don't have this, and given that, from their viewpoint, it causes humans to behave in frankly irrational manners that make them extremely vulnerable to exploitation and depredation by those without such an inherent psychic flaw and weakness, they don't want it. The enormous advantages given to humanity by our natural aptitude for organization and team work are things that demons themselves can only dimly grasp and not really comprehend; they understand that somehow humans have come to dominate the Earth, but they aren't sure how, although most or all of them probably are truculently sure that we cheated in some way.
Under this model, when a human being is converted to vampirism, their body would be transformed from normal flesh and blood into a near-exact duplicate composed of necromantic energy... but the soul, being an entirely immaterial, psychic organ, would not be duplicated. Thus, the human self still existent within the transformed body would now find itself without that vital aspect of its individual consciousness that it has always had, and as such, would no longer have any instinctive feeling of sympathy, empathy, or socialization. There would no longer be a capacity for true friendship or love in the human who now finds him or herself in a vampiric body; they are cut off from the telepathic racial subconsciousness. That sense of belonging to something greater would be gone.
In some vampires, this would result in a feeling of enormous relief from an oppression they had never really been aware of, and they would revel in their new freedom to do whatever they wanted to all the sentient beings around them without conscience pangs. Others would find themselves vaguely and incoherently missing the social connections they no longer really feel, and would strive to recreate them as best they could, although it would be something a like a newly blinded artist trying to draw by 'feel'. Still, this would explain why some vampires form relationships in a disgustingly human manner, as the Judge might put it, while others take on a more classically demonic standpoint, regarding everyone around them as objects to be bent to their will or destroyed... tools, toys, or annoyances.
Ah. Now this hypothesis we're all much more comfortable with. The soul isn't some silly thing shoved into our heads by a race of divine meddlers for reasons not our own; no, it is a product of evolution (we all love evolution) that gives us a huge psychic advantage over those scuzzy demon types. It isn't something handed out like candy from on high that distorts our natural patterns of thinking, oh no, it's a natural part of our intrinsic humanity! It's what makes us so cool! Gosh, that's nicey nice nice!
Of course, the problem with this hypothesis is that virtually all of mankind's metaphysical beliefs going back into prehistory have centered around the concept of the 'soul' being a gift from the gods or God, something give to us from outside that makes us better than the mere beasts of the field. We have an entire occult tradition built up around the concept of 'selling our souls', something that would hardly be likely if the 'soul' is just a freak psychic mutation that resulted in a social, intellectual, and technological advantage for humanity over those similar beings who didn't get it.
Still, all that, once more, could come from confusing the 'self' with the 'soul', which most human cultures seem to do. And we'll get to that.
It's also worth noting at this point that the function of Spike's chip can be seen as consistent with either the 'radio beacon' model or the 'evolved psychic organ' model for the soul's function. The chip itself seems to perform a fairly sophisticated function, in that it constantly monitors Spike's brain activity, as well as whether or not there is a 'soul' in his immediate proximity, or especially attached to whatever entity he is currently focusing his attention on... and if his attentions become violent, the chip immediately tweaks the pain center of his brain, in much the same way the chip from Crichton's THE TERMINAL MAN functions.
In order to do this, however, the Initiative would basically have had to build either:
(a) the equivalent of a psychic radio receiver that can detect the presence of a 'soul'... and anything that can do that would, most likely, over time, start to receive the same general connection to, or psychic radio signal from, the Higher Powers, as an actual soul would. Weaker, perhaps, and strengthened by proximity to real souls, which would reinforce the 'broadcast'... but in effect, the chip in Spike's head is, more and more, starting to act to a certain extent like a sort of artificial soul. It's not as good as the real thing, and probably won't help Spike's own immortal essence attain a higher plane if he's ever staked (and most likely, he'd be judged pretty harshly by the Higher Powers if it did, anyway)... but it's enough to awaken his higher moral nature at least slightly; to allow him to feel loneliness, a longing to belong to a social matrix, affection, friendship, and even love. In other words, however much Spike hates it, the vestigial remnants of his humanity, strengthened by his artificial 'soul', are knitting together into a 'conscience' once more.
(b) the technological equivalent of that same 'psychic organ', one that allows Spike to be tuned in on, and make a telepathic link (however weak and rudimentary) to the mass racial subconscious that the rest of us share. This would gradually have the effect of allowing Spike to start seeing individuals who have souls, especially those he spends the most time with, as 'real', as being as valid as he is... in other words, it would allow him to feel affection, want to make friends, to form a desire to belong to some social matrix... even to fall in love. If the soul is indeed such a psychic organ, then the chip was probably designed simply to detect its presence by attuning Spike's brain to its telepathic broadcast frequency; however, over time, that has formed a connection in and of itself that is very similar to a real, natural soul. Thus, as stated, while Angel is 'The Vampire With A Soul', Spike is pretty much the next best thing... a vampire with a chip in his head that acts like a soul, and allows him to connect once more with the telempathic grid/network that binds all humanity together into one psychic unit... more or less.
The 'psychic organ' hypothesis, however pleasing to our own human egos, does also have a problem when we consider it in light of the whole 'let's conjure up Angel's soul and jam it into his vampire psyche again'. After all, if the soul is just an immaterial mutation that proved to be a highly beneficial evolution for protohumanity, all this talk about 'conjuring up Angel's soul' is just so much mystic hooie. Angel doesn't have a particular 'soul', or if he did, it should have simply dissipated when he was turned into a vampire and that particular psychic organ was not duplicated.
However, mystic hooie is an intrinsic part of the supernatural. It's human nature to try to make things sound grandiloquent and mysterious, and unfortunately, there is a tendency to the pompous and the obscure in all of us. And it might behoove us now to remember that when the Rites of Restoration used to give Angel his soul back were discussed, mention was made specifically of using the sphere-thingie to 'conjure Angel's soul out of the ether'. While this could mean nearly anything, including grabbing Angel's original, surviving, disembodied personality back from wherever it had wandered in the cosmos, it seems more likely to assume that the whole ritual, and the sphere itself, were simply meant to focus psychic energy in such a way as to create another 'soul' for Angel... basically, giving him the spiritual equivalent of a blood transfusion or a kidney transplant, except in this case, Angel's new 'soul' would simply be formed out of psychic energy drawn out of the ether.
Thus, Angel's 'soul', while it's just as good and functional as anyone else's in connecting him to the racial human empathic network and, well, making him feel guilty as hell over all the bad shit he did when he was free of its influence, is not the soul he was born with, or even the one the Gypsies made for him. It's just a fully functional psychic organ crafted for him by Willow when she cast the spell again.
So there we have two different mechanisms to explain the 'soul'... one of occult, divine, and supernatural origin for irrational, mystical, New Age 'fantasy' fans, the 'God Gave It To Us To Make Us Better' Hypothesis, and the other for mechanical, engineering type SF fans in the John Campbell/James T. Kirk school of thought, who believe that intrinsic human individuality is ultimately the thing that will conquer the universe and that gives us a leg up on all other sentient beings, the "It Jest Grew There Maw" theorem. You pays your money, and you takes your choice... at least, until some episode I haven't seen yet comes along and invalidates both of them, leaving me back where I began.
C. THE SELF
We've spent a lot of time on the 'soul', and I've emphasized, over and over again, that one of the primary areas of emotional confusion that arises while watching BUFFY is that Whedon & Co. use the phrase 'soul' in order to evoke certain emotional associations, and yet, they seem to be defining that particular spiritual component in ways that are entirely unique, and thus, different from how most human cultures emotionally and implicitly perceive a 'soul' to be. To put it bluntly once more, the 'soul' in the Buffy Universe is not the 'self'.
If it were, soulless entities like demons could have no self awareness or individuality, there would be no point in punishing a soulless vampire-demon like Angelus by forcing an innocent 'self' who had taken no part in Angelus' crimes back into Angelus' body, as the only punishment would be to the separate self of 'Angel', who would erroneously think he bore responsibility for the actions of the separate demonic entity, and various people would long ago have realized, and explained to Angel, that he himself is an entirely separate entity from the demon Angelus, and has nothing to feel guilty over. Furthermore, not only could soulless entities have no individuality or self awareness, they also could not survive after the death of their physical bodies.
So, if the 'soul' is not the 'self', then what is the self?
Let's look at the last point we made above: if the 'soul' were the 'self', soulless entities, like vampires, could not survive the death of their physical bodies. Since we've seen Darla resurrected, we know that the 'self' cannot be the 'soul', because Darla's personal identity and discrete individual consciousness did survive the death of her vampiric body, and she was brought back to life in a body that was, apparently, a duplicate of her natural body around the time of her death.
In other words, the 'self', our personal identity, the individual essence that is 'us', does survive the death of the body in some form, with or without a soul, which makes it implicit and irrefutable that the 'self' and the 'soul' are not the same thing, and, in fact, that the 'soul' is not necessary for an individual entity to survive death in some self aware state.
What the 'self' may be and where it arises originally must remain speculative. However, this is the speculation section, so I'll say that I myself suspect the 'self' is some sort of immaterial energy-entity that is generated by the physical, organic, metabolic body over time. How much time, I don't know. If a baby dies, does some immaterial energy form comprising its barely formed personality survive and go somewhere else? Or does it take longer for the 'self' to form as a discrete entity that can remain coherent after terminal disconnection from the shell of the body? In which case, the question would become, how long does a person have to survive in a body before they are 'organized' enough as an energy entity to continue beyond terminal mortal disconnection?
I have no answer for that, although I'll point out that many mythological cults in human history and in human occult traditions specify the sacrifice of infants, for whatever reason... and that reason may have to do with some threshold below which the nascent individual consciousness does not survive physical death. Perhaps the death of an infant causes the dissipation of the newly formed energy entity in a way that can be absorbed and harnessed as psychic power, or that attracts the attention of certain extradimensional demonic entities that like to feed on such etheric elements, but are too weak normally to rip apart a fully formed, more solidly coherent personality.
Whatever the case, there is inarguably some sort of coherent individual 'self' that, with or without a 'soul', can survive the death of its sheltering body. That 'self' is altered in its behavior, psychology, and mannerisms by transformation into a vampire state, mostly by the loss of the 'soul' which somehow provides a higher moral judgement and reasoning center... but still, that 'self' has a continuity of existence from living human body into undead vampiric body, and so the essential individual remains the same. Angel remains Angel throughout his long life, whether he has a soul or not. Darla, similarly, remains essentially the same individual whether she is in vampire form or human. With or without a soul or a living, human body, the 'self' continues.
It's worth noting that in one case we've seen, the sense of self and identity was so strong that it managed to maintain a link to a severed body part across several miles of separation, even though that body part had been grafted onto another person and was supposedly under their control. I'm speaking, of course, of Lindsay's 'evil hand' problems, which seemed to resolve themselves after he obeyed the request of his hand donor... whose body had been almost entirely scavenged of parts by then, and yet, who still lived in a Wolfram & Hart sponsored life support tank... and killed him. Presumably, at that point, the donor's 'self' went on somewhere else, and left Lindsay to use the hand in peace. Nonetheless, the 'self' can be a very powerful thing.
It's also interesting to speculate that in fact, when human occult traditions speak of 'selling your soul', they are actually making a semantic error. In fact, what they are talking about is 'selling your self', which is to say, selling your immaterial and essential identity-entity, your coherent disembodied consciousness, into spiritual servitude, most likely after your body dies, but perhaps sometimes even before. Wolfram & Hart's employment contracts, as we've discovered, seem to extend beyond the death of the physical body, although the dead Holland Manners in the elevator to Hell with Angel seemed to still have his physical body, and said, in fact, that he wasn't a ghost.
Still, much of what that particular entity, whoever he was, said to Angel was most likely misinformation, and it seems at least possible that everything Angel thought he saw, after leaping at the Senior Partner, knocking him through the window, and putting his enchanted ring on, was probably an illusion meant to... well... disillusion him, break his spirit utterly, and, in the best Wolfram & Hart manner, finish the admirable job of corrupting him that they had started by bringing back Darla in the first place. (That the whole scenario was simply planned, probably without Lindsay or Lilah's knowledge, to fake Angel out and make him utterly disgusted with humanity and the world, seems well within the realm of possibility, and certainly within the reasonable capacities of Wolfram & Hart to successfully stage. Working an elaborate scam using various mystical and illusory spells would seem right in keeping for them.)
D. THE AFTERLIFE
We don't know much about it. Apparently, something happens to individual personalities upon the death of their bodies. Most seem to go somewhere other than Earth, but I don't think anyone we've seen who has returned to life retained any memory of where they'd been. Some may reincarnate into new bodies. A few hang around down here, apparently, as ghosts, as seen in "I Only Have Eyes For You". Still, the fact that various individuals have been resurrected would seem to indicate that there is an afterlife of some sort.
As stated in Part 1. Data, we've been told that the generally humanoid demons seen in the past, in both BUFFY and ANGEL, are not true demons, but are, in fact, 'tainted', whatever that turns out to mean. True Demons, with a capital D, are great big huge ugly monstrous things that need to chow down on vast amounts of provender, apparently preferring the human kind, and that, apparently, don't like sunlight much (implied by the fact that Ascensions from minor demon form to major Demon form are inevitably accompanied by a total eclipse). These great big monstrous Demons are vastly powerful, enormously ickie, and, in the words of a particularly hot brunette Slayer, 'wicked gross', but they are far from indestructible, as demonstrated by the fact that one was, in a long ago time, killed by a volcanic eruption, and the entire graduating class of Sunndale High 1999, ably led by Buffy and Xander, managed to blow one up real good with several tons of ANFO (ammonium nitrate fuel oil) explosive piled up in the school library.
As vampires fear and can be hurt or killed by fire, and as both Demons we know of died as a result of massive amounts of pyrokinetic force (one was buried by an exploding volcano, while the other was, as noted, blown up by a massive ANFO explosion), and as Demons don't seem to like sunlight, it does seem safe to say that Demon bodies are composed of the same unnatural, necromantic energy as vampire bodies.
Given the Analysis and Speculation, above, on the nature of the soul, and what it's absence might mean, it would generally seem that the lesser demons for the vast most part will tend to be anti-social, aggressive, violent, easily incited to anger and hatred, and generally just kind of mean, nasty folks. While their essential identities would most likely survive the deaths of their bodies, without a 'soul' they have no direct connection to a Higher Power, and as such, it would seem their discarnate personalities would either wander around causing random amounts of mischief and harm out of malice and spite, get eaten by psychic predators, get enslaved to provide psychic power to necromancers, or wind up leaving the material dimension of Earth entirely and winding up in some demonic Hell realm where, presumably, they'd be tormented and, at best, end up in the service of some more powerful Demon lord there. All of which would lead lesser demons with any intelligence and foresight to try to exercise one or both of two available options: either (a) making their physical bodies as close to immortal as possible to avoid the whole afterlife of torment thingie, or (b) making some kind of deal with some sort of greater Demon to enter into their service voluntarily, on this mortal plane and/or in the afterlife, so they would at least know where they're going to end up and what's going to happen there.
The gradual evolution of the soulless prehistorics into many different demon races, and the soulful primates into considerably fewer human races, may be attributable to direct genetic and magical manipulation of the demonic races by Greater Demons, as opposed to a relative lack of such manipulation of human genetics by the Higher Powers. In fact, vampirism and lycanthropy could well be the results of Greater or lesser demons attempting to screw around with human genetics, psyches, or essences regardless of the fact that humans are, supposedly, protected by the Higher Powers.
Whatever the case, we have lesser demon races here on Earth and Greater Demons dwelling in the Outer Dimensions trying to get back to Earth and all sort of demons of varying power levels and appearances and abilities in between living in other dimensions but traveling to Earth fairly often when summoned by some idiot who should know better but doesn't. Most lesser demons seem to have adapted, over the generations, and developed the power to shapeshift into a semblance of human shape, which would seem to indicate that they have at least some necromantic energy in their bodily make up. Most lesser demons seem to be stronger and tougher than normal humans, as well as meaner and nastier. Some of the more powerful lesser demons apparently can enter into pacts with Greater Demons for many different things, usually expressed as increased mortal power.
Whatever the case, despite the obvious fact that there are many physical differences between demons and humans (and between demons and demons, for that matter), the primary difference between the two groups is psychic, and defined by the presence or absence of a soul. This seems underscored by the fact that demons can be nourished by human flesh, can use human bodies as incubators for their own young, and, especially, can interbreed with humanity in many cases and have fertile offspring... all of which indicates that demons evolved in the same environment as humans did and have an astonishing amount of genetic consanguinity with humans.
Or, it's just magic, but that's kind of dull.
To an extent, Wolfram & Hart could be seen as a sort of demonic recruiting agency, employed in a concerted, organized attempt to strip away the crippling, spirit shackle that is a 'soul' and return poor, mind controlled humanity to the true freedom and liberation of the natural demon state. The process of recruiting a human and turning them into a vampire could also be seen this way, from the demonic perspective. What a human would see as corruption, a demon might well look on as liberation and emancipation.
In the Host's home dimension, whose name I can't recall right this second, there is an ancient and very unpleasant demonic priesthood that seems to have some essential link to Wolfram & Hart (or, at least, both organizations seem to draw on the same basic texts for their charters). This particularly ickie priesthood seems to be the essential factor in a demonic society that treats their human population as 'cows'... which may indicate that whatever Gods or Powers this demonic priesthood worships (I'd assume Greater Demons, myself) long ago thought of humans, or perhaps all prehistoric hominids, as cattle, and the priesthood is simply now relegating this status, millenia later, to humans. The Priesthood did not seem to have any particular abilities for draining psychic power, but on the other hand, they were obsessed with magically transferring Cordelia's 'curse' of clairvoyant visions (a direct link to the Higher Powers, apparently, much the same as the 'soul' I've been talking about) to another demon/human hybrid they could more directly control. Perhaps this priesthood does not have the power to tap into the human soul-link, but their ability to magically manipulate the 'vision' link would indicate they do have some capacity for exploiting certain kinds of psychic energy. Further, this priesthood controlled all enslaved humans through collars that their demonic masters could use to give them jolts of pain at will, and had a machine that would, supposedly, destroy every human in the dimension if they activated it... all of which sounds to me like it worked, somehow, through interactions with the human soul.... All of which simply indicates that while demons may, for the most part, be contemptuous of the human soul, they certainly seem to know what it is and, in many cases, how to manipulate it.
Gods seem to feed on psychic energy. They also seem to be mostly immaterial and to dwell, for various reasons, on other (perhaps higher) planes than that of the material Earth. They also seem to be able to directly alter or impact the material fabric of what we call 'reality' through an effort of their will, although they also seem to prefer to work through physical agents in this realm.
Or perhaps gods only need to feed on psychic energy when they are in living, biological, material forms, such as that worn by Glory in her earthly incarnation. We really don't know, although the fact that 'gods' seem to have encouraged sentient beings to worship them, and that higher demons (Demons?) seem to still encourage lower demons, and their human followers, to worship and sacrifice to them, would seem to bear out the notion that even if higher energy/psychic beings don't need to feed on the psychic energy of lesser material beings, they still like it.
We know that Glory needed to habitually feed on human psychic energy to maintain her own psychic coherency. She couldn't feed on demonic psychic energy, even though she was surrounded at all times by her demonic worshippers. We know that those who had been drained by Glory were then linked to her psychically, and according to Glory, could never find their way out of the darkness of their own shattered minds again. And we know that Willow managed to reverse this draining process and restore to Tara whatever it was that Glory had drained from her, that this seemed to break the link between Tara and Glory, give Tara her sanity back, and, according to Glory, it 'made a hole' in Glory's own psychic coherency.
I would hypothesize that Glory, for whatever reason, was not simply manifest in material form, but in actual human form. This would mean that she would have a soul, as humans do. And apparently, this soul kept her from forming the necessary psychic contact with demonic minds, who do not have souls. All of this seems to fit in well with my second hypothesis about the soul, namely, that it is a 'psychic organ' that allows each human being to be in constant subconscious telempathic contact with all other human beings. In order to get the psychic energy she needs to maintain her highly advanced mentality, Glory is required to drain energy from minds that her own 'human' psyche has an affinity for... and in effect, when she does so, she is building her own little psychic sub-network of those she has drained. She can't continue to get any useful amounts of energy from them, but nonetheless, they are linked to her and they feel what she feels, and that link can, under the right conditions, be reversed, leaving Glory with a sudden gap in the psychic network she has built and become accustomed to having around her.
Being incarnate within this material plane, Glory seemed limited to affecting the material plane in the same manner as the rest of us, i.e., physically, through the use of her body and whatever tools she might find or construct. Her much more advanced and powerful mentality allowed her to manipulate her physical body in ways that we cannot, making her effectively superhuman to an otherwise unattainable and invincible degree... but still, her vast natural psychic powers were constrained and channeled through her human body. Thus, she could destroy nearly anything she wanted with a blow of her hand or foot, she could move through the material world at huge velocities, and she could not be hurt by lesser physical attacks simply because her animating consciousness was superior to anything that might confront it... but she could not simply change or alter reality at a distance through a simple effort of will, as she could have if she had been on a higher dimensional plane and freed of her material body.
Just as lesser demons seem to occasionally have the opportunity to ascend to the status of Greater Demons, so I would assume Greater Demons have the occasional opportunity to ascend to Godhood. Or it may well be that Greater Demons are simply the material forms that these immaterial beings from the higher planes take on when they visit Earth... although they also seem capable of taking on more humanoid forms if they want to, as Glory has (although she seemed to have been forced to it) and as the Senior Partner supposedly did in one episode of ANGEL. In fact, the Greater Demon that the Mayor became may have simply been the next material stage for him in a process that would have led to his ascent to eventual godhood.
It occurs to me that the Tribunal could, hypothetically, wander around the various dimensions staging duels to the death and offering their protection to the winners of these duels in order to feast off the psychic energies released during these duels. This would also explain why, in general, they only accepted demons as champions in these duels, since demons would be easier to get access to in this way, not having 'souls' already channeling their energies to some higher plane. This would seem to indicate that the Tribunal were also gods, but that's only a theory. On the other hand, they seemed to have physical bodies... but so did Glory... so I don't know.
G. THE SLAYER
Exactly what is this strange metaphysical office known as 'The Slayer'?
According to the movie, and the blurb at the start of all the TV series' first season episodes, "Into each generation, a Slayer is born". We've since found out that this is... well... poetic, to say the least. Into each generation, apparently, many potential Slayers are born, although none of these candidates actually become full fledged Slayers until the death of an immediate predecessor causes the initiation of some mysterious activation process that endows the new Slayer with the superhuman powers that are the fundamental tools of her new office/profession/vocation.
What is it that makes a potential Slayer? Well, it isn't anything specific to any one race, apparently, as BUFFY and ANGEL have both been careful to show us Slayers of many different ethnicities. (As I mentioned before, it's vaguely troubling, though, that only the Caucasian Slayers seem to survive for very long, and, in fact, Buffy the WASPy White Vampire Slayer has on many occasions managed to kick the ass of both vampires who killed three other, non white Slayers. The Aryan Nation has good reason to be proud of BUFFY and the subtle message of Caucasian superiority that the franchise seems to be spreading among young white children everywhere.) Whatever the case may be, potential Slayers all do seem to share certain things in common, which could well be from a common genetic sequence scattered in prehistory amongst the human population. In general, these common traits seem to be:
* Gender - potential Slayers are all female. In the movie there was actually a reason for this; Slayers had the ability to detect the proximity of vampires through a reaction in their female reproductive systems that gave them symptoms like menstrual cramps. Apparently, this was considered comical (honestly, I just think that, if it was intended to be funny, it's simply vulgar) and removed from all mention in the TV franchise... leaving us with Slayers who are all female, for no readily discernible reason. We'll assume that for some reason (women's intuition?), chickiepoos are better recipients of 'Slayer powers' than men are.
* Athleticism - potential Slayers all seem to have the 'jock gene', which to say, they all seem to be among that elite (and generally annoying) few who have enormous natural physical strength, speed, stamina, coordination, and durability, who learn athletic disciplines easily and who enjoy physical exertion. Bruce Wayne, presumably, was fortunate enough to have the same 'jock gene', although his gender would have disqualified him from Slayer-hood.
* Attractiveness - potential Slayers all seem to be at the very least cute, and in many of the cases we've seen, way hot. No Slayer yet seen on screen has been even remotely homely. Spotty, porky, and/or woofy candidates need not apply, apparently.
* Presumably, all potential Slayers share some special affinity for or sensitivity to whatever it is that eventually chooses and makes some sort of psychic connection to them, in order to give them their powers. It would make sense if this was a gender-linked trait.
Why they're all female... well, see my last point, above. The reason they're all in the upper percentages of human athletic potential is equally obvious. Presumably, Willow, given the right psychic 'attunement', could be infused with 'Slayer powers', but chances are, she'd be considerably weaker and slower and more breakable than someone who was already naturally tough and strong and fast.
As for them being babes, one assumes this is primarily a coincidence, generated by the fact that they're all going to be on TV, and up until now, on the WB Network, and it is Against The Laws Of The WB Universe for any female characters or actors appearing thereon to Not Be Hot, unless they're really really old, members of an alien or monstrous race, annoying producer characters on Darren Star parody shows, or playing Nikki Cox's mother in law. But these are the only exceptions, and Vampire Slayers are clearly not among them. Therefore, all Vampire Slayers must be at least moderately hot, and the ones who are going to be around for longer than five minutes before Spike kills them have to be Totally Hot. Personally, I can only hope UPN continues in this stellar tradition and ongoing celebration of the aesthetically pleasing female physique, and personally look forward to seeing Jeri Ryan briefly cameo in a flashback as some 19th Century Slayer doomed to be choked to death with her own mammoth brassiere by Darla and the Master.
How are Slayers chosen from the available candidates, who does the choosing, and what happens afterward? Well, as far as we've seen, there doesn't seem to be any particular Earthly ritual involved in the 'activation' of a Slayer, and in fact, at least with Buffy, the Council seemed rather surprised at who the next Slayer turned out to be, so apparently they don't have anything to do with it. It would be helpful if someone at some point had ever explicated exactly how it is the Council manages to track down who the next Slayer is, but if this has ever been stated, I'm not aware of it. Apparently, Slayer candidates just wander blithely along in their lives with no clue as to their potential status as mankind's supernatural defender, until abruptly, some unknown power or authority decides to whack them with the Slayer stick... and shortly thereafter, a Watcher assigned by the Council comes doddering up, hurls a bayonet at their heads, and start exhorting them to hie off to the nearest graveyard and jam pieces of firewood through the chests of reanimated corpses.
It seems a rather odd procedure.
Given that we've never (at least, to my knowledge) been given much information on the nuts and bolts of actual Slayer selection and the notification thereof by unknown supernatural entities to the Council of just what lucky young debutante got handed the pointy stick this time around, the best I can do is speculate. And I would speculate that in fact, the office of Slayer was probably created mystically long, long ago, perhaps by some prehistoric human shaman as a covenant with the Higher Powers, to help provide a besieged humanity with some sort of powerful and effective help against the forces of supernatural evil (demons, and, presumably, vampires) that were, at that time, constantly prowling just beyond the circle of firelight outside primitive man's cave dwellings.
I tend to assume that all this took place back in prehistory, with a humanity that still dwelt for the most part in caves, because we've seen an entity called 'the First Slayer', and she looks pretty damn Stone Age to me. That's only my instinct, but dammit, the woman looks practically like an extra from QUEST FOR FIRE. Of course, the idea that the First Slayer came about due to some pact between a prehistoric cave shaman and the Higher Powers is all entirely supposition, based on my own probably insane and deranged conceptualizations regarding the nature of the soul and the connection between humanity and the Higher Powers and what have you.
However, all we know, to date (as far as I'm aware) is that there is an entity called the First Slayer that still, apparently, messes with Slayers and their buddies occasionally in their dreams, and who looks like a refugee from the flashbacks in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. We know that Slayers have superhuman powers they aren't born with, and don't train to get, and aren't given through super soldier serums or experimental chemicals or the bites of radioactive insects... in fact, they seem to just 'get' them, somehow, from somewhere that they themselves don't understand, and are often, apparently, surprised to find they have them, as when groaty old Watchers show up out of nowhere and throw knives at their heads, and they pluck said knives out of the air without conscious effort. (One wonders at the various lawsuits that the Watcher's Council has quietly settled out of court after various regrettable cases of mistaken Slayer identification.)
All of which is to say, the powers, which seem to be 'natural' to Slayers once they are activated as Slayers, were not present in the girls before, and are not instilled in them by any known force, process, or entity. These powers are quite formidable, and apparently, can be active in more than one Slayer at one time without any discernible diminishment in either Slayer's power levels (although Kendra, in my opinion, seemed to be a pretty lousy Slayer). These powers apparently remain for life, even after a Slayer is killed and resurrected, and apparently, can increase with experience and training.
Beyond that, Dracula, or the entity who claimed to be Dracula, spouted a lot of mysterious sounding wanker talk about how the Slayer's powers were similar to the powers of the creatures she fought, and the source of the Slayer's power lay in darkness, and similar bilge, which may or may not have been true. In addition to that, the First Slayer seemed to be doing her level best to kill Buffy, Xander, Willow, and Giles after they all fused together briefly into Uber-Slayer in order to beat Adam at the end of the fourth season... which seems like a pretty dark thing to do.
All told, then, I'm going to speculate and say that the source of the Slayer's power is demonic, and stems from some sort of ancient pact between humanity and this particular demon, or some entity which has authority over this demon. The pact probably states that this particular demon will provide 'power' to the Slayer, in exchange for... I don't know what... and that upon the death of one Slayer, the 'power' will then be provided to another person who will become the Slayer. Most likely, the pact contains various details and provisions outlining exactly the sort of person who will be deemed to be an acceptable Slayer, and who knows, the demon may always pick girls just because the original humans who set up the pact didn't specify gender, and the demon in question figured girls wouldn't be very good at it. (Demons are like that.)
This is, again, all speculation, and there are alternative explanations. However, I like this one the best. Buffy has seen the First Slayer a few times and been told that that form is 'only a vessel', so I suspect that what she has seen is not actually the First Slayer herself, who is long since dust, but merely a guise taken on by the supernatural entity (probably a Demon) that provides the Slayer with her power, patterned after the first human that this Demon was ever linked to. The reason this particular Demon tried to kill Xander, Willow, and Giles after the merging spell is most likely that the ancient pact specifically protects the Slayer from retribution by this Demon, but not anyone else. The merging spell made this Demon aware of Buffy's friends, and even gave it a psychic link to them, and as the Slayer pact does not protect them, it felt free to torment them and even try to destroy them.
Given the above, assuming any of it is even remotely close to being accurate, the Watchers could well be the organization that first created the Slayer Pact back in prehistory... or are, at least, the ancient organization that inherited custodianship of the Pact and that attempts to locate, train, and support each succeeding Slayer. No doubt they have ways of tracking the extradimensional link between the Demon who gives the Slayer her powers, and the Slayer herself... or they have the ability to invoke the Demon and ask it who the latest Slayer is, or, at least, do some sort of spell to give them a vision of the newest Slayer and her surroundings so they can try to locate her.
I'm aware there is a BUFFY book featuring Spike and Drusilla that states that the Watcher's Council has an active training program involving all the known Slayer candidates at any given time, but while this seems like an interesting idea, I've never heard it mentioned on the TV show. As a geek who is approaching middle age, I'm aware that writers in peripheral spin off medias tend to take liberties with creative properties that would often be greeted with derision or appalled shock by the original creator (writers of STAR TREK fiction, even the official stuff sanctioned by Paramount, often establish things that are clearly not a legitimate part of the franchise depicted on TV and in film), so I can't take this notion that the Council has a list of all Slayer candidates at any given time and trains them all to be potential Slayers seriously. As I say, it's an interesting idea, but not necessarily a sensible one, and would seem to be belied by the fact that clearly, neither the Council nor Buffy had ever heard of each other prior to her being somehow selected and mystically activated as the current Slayer.
It appears, however, that if the source of the Slayer's superhuman powers is demonic, it is perfectly capable of providing those powers to more than one Slayer at one time, and that once activated, the link between Slayers and the power source is not severed, even by death. Or, it could be that some mysterious force simply activates powers that somehow lie dormant in each Slayer candidate from birth... but while that's the simplest explanation, it doesn't seem to account for the psychic attack of the 'First Slayer' entity on Buffy and her friends at the end of the fourth season, or the focused nature of a Slayer's limited clairvoyance powers (which mostly center around imminent supernatural threats to mankind), or the Watchers' apparently ability to find a previously unknown Slayer after her powers have been activated. It seems to me that the extradimensional power source is the most likely hypothesis.
I suspect I'd know more about this if I'd seen the episodes where (I'm told) Buffy actually dies, and then is brought back to life... so it may be that all these speculations are clearly pointless and wrong, and have already been invalidated by something in a show or shows I haven't seen yet.
H. THE CHARACTERS -
As noted in Part 1, the characters are what make any show work, and if BUFFY is consistently a notch above the vast majority of television (which it is) and even most feature films (and any random episode of BUFFY, in my opinion, makes GLADIATOR look terrible by comparison), then the reason is the characterization. Credit for that has to go to Whedon, Greenwalt, the writing team, and, of course, the astonishingly talented acting ensemble.
Bearing that in mind, some general speculations on next season's character directions would be:
First, in general, Sunnydale is now without a Slayer. Now, there are several ways to deal with this. We've seen Buffy's tombstone, so presumably she's been established as being dead for at least a few days. How much longer she'll stay dead before the inevitable resurrection is unknown. So one possibility is that she comes back nearly immediately after the end of the last WB episode. This keeps things simple and requires no adjustments in the lives of the characters. Simplicity is rarely seen as a virtue on BUFFY, though (Whedon certainly didn't take the easy way out introducing a little sister) so things may be allowed to be more interesting than this. For example:
*A new Slayer arises. We've seen it happen before, once when Buffy died previous to this, and once when Buffy's successor, Kendra, died... at which point, Buffy herself was still alive, but still, the death of Kendra caused a new Slayer, Faith, to be activated. So we can assume a new Slayer is due to show up, in which case, if she shows up in Sunnydale, Buffy's team will probably try to form some sort of support nexus around her... with, as THE SIMPSONS are fond of noting, 'whacky results'.
*A new Slayer doesn't arise, or arises off in Philadelphia or Saigon or someplace Not Sunnydale. In this case, Sunnydale will still need some sort of occult patrol force to stake the newly hatched vampires and fight all the various demonic plots that keep being spawned there, and the Slayerettes, between them, working as a team, might just add up to one Slayer... nearly. Until Buffy's inevitable return, watching Xander, Anya, Willow, Tara, and maybe Spike patrol the night, bumbling and fumbling their way through various encounters with evil, could be fun.
Some or all of these possibilities will most likely be mentioned again in the individual character listings where appropriate, but hey, that's life. Nobody's paying me for this.
BUFFY SUMMERS - Analysis and Speculation on Buffy are, at this point, mostly fruitless, since she's currently dead, and while I feel certain that won't last, I have no idea what shape her resurrection will take, how long she'll have been dead before she comes back, and what she'll find when she finally returns. Chances are good she'll either have to get Dawn out of foster care, track her down if she's run away, or get into a custody battle with their father over her.
As to speculations on possible developments in the nature and behavior of Buffy herself - well, it seems inevitable that some kind of romantic interest will have to be generated for her, since she's been without that most fundamental of melodramatic plot staples for most of a season now. With Angel at another network, we can be reasonably sure he won't be showing up, and I can only pray Riley never returns, unless it's as a villain, so presumably this would have to be someone new. (For various reasons, it's obvious Buffy won't develop a romance with any of the male regulars currently in the series, and I can't think of any eligible peripheral males who have been hanging around lately, either.)
With Willow and Tara around, we can at least rest assured that Buffy will stay straight, which is something of a relief. (I have nothing against gay humans of either gender in concept, but I've already had my heart broken once by the delectable Willow taking a pass on my entire gender; having Buffy do it too would be more than I could bear.) With Giles dropping back to recurring character status, one has to wonder if Buffy will be assigned a new Watcher, and the other obvious complication for Buffy that could be looming on the horizon will be if a new Slayer is chosen upon her recent death. Since Faith was apparently chosen upon the death of Kendra, even though Buffy was still alive at that time (I think, I could be wrong) it would seem that the activation of a new Slayer is something we'll have to contend with.
Personally, since we have to go fishing in the Great Beyond to get Buffy back, I'll personally offer up a wish that they could cast a big enough net to get Jenny Calendar back, as well. I don't know what they'd do with her once they got her, but she was just a total babe.
RUPERT GILES - Dropping from regular to recurring character status, and with a rumored show of his own in the tentative planning stages, Rupert would appear to be not long for the BUFFY series, anyway. It seems unlikely, given all that, that he'll be developed in any interesting way here. Worse, it seems unlikely he'll be beating the living crap out of Angel with a lit torch again any time soon, either. I don't have anything against Angel as a character, but as the teenage bystander once told Johnny Smith, I love to see that guy take a beatin'.
XANDER HARRIS - With engagement to Anya in the offing, it seems fairly predictable that next season will end with a wedding. I suppose we should really commend BUFFY for having avoided that monstrous cliché for this long, but apparently, they just couldn't let their cast members get much out of teen agerdom without having someone get hitched. One can only predict that, as inevitably occurs in melodramatic fiction, marriage will make Xander and Anya steadily more and more boring (hey, art imitates life). Of course, Whedon could surprise me (despite his apparently penchant for recycling previous storylines, he still does that from time to time) and the most predictable surprise in the Xander/Anya relationship would be Xander breaking it off with her, and her reverting to vengeance demon state in order to punish him. Remember, folks, you read it here first.
While Nicholas Brendan has done an exemplary job working with the limited range of behavior and dialogue that Xander is generally given, managing to flesh out and add dimension to a character who started out as, and for the most part remains, a buffoon, one can't really see him managing to push the envelope too far. Xander may be the single character in the show whose major charms and interesting traits all stem from his immaturity, from watching him struggle along the road to adulthood and go through a coming of age. The problem with this is that either he comes of age and becomes a boring grown up, or he doesn't and becomes a perpetual adolescent. I have nothing against perpetual adolescents (I'm one myself) but I suspect the BUFFY audience won't take to it well... yet Xander really seems to have nothing interesting to grow into. Unless he gets turned into a vampire or a demon or something. I suppose Anya could turn him into a troll.
Whatever the case, while Xander is and always has been one of my favorite characters in the show, it's tough for me to figure out what they'll do with him after too much longer. As with many of the characters in NYPD BLUE, I'd think that eventually, the writers will just run out of ideas for keeping the character interesting. But maybe I'm wrong. He could always run for Mayor of Sunnydale; I understand the incumbent had to step down for health reasons...
WILLOW ROSENBERG - This season or next, I expect Willow to run into some problems as regards her perceptions of her own sexuality. Most likely, she'll meet a guy she likes and end up being very confused by that (and if Seth Green wakes up and smells the Dead Film Career, maybe it will be Oz... wouldn't that be nice). Should Tara turn out to be merely an imaginary friend cooked up by Willow's subconscious, doubtless that will cause her to have some issues to deal with, too (like resolving the fact that all the time she thought she was gay, she was actually just masturbating). As for her personal growth, a lot of that will depend on how long Buffy stays dead, as in her absence, and with Giles back in England a lot, Willow is the obvious candidate to keep the Slayerettes together and active as a protective force in Sunnydale, in the absence of an actual Slayer. (Willow, Tara, Anya, Xander, and maybe Spike, working together, should about add up to one Slayer, I'd think.) Even if Buffy pops right back up above ground again, Willow is still the obvious pick to take Giles' place as her major advisor and deputy leader of the group. I'd expect to see a much stronger and more aggressive Willow, as well as a more powerful one, emerging over the next season.
CORDELIA CHASE - Oh, who cares? (sigh) Presumably, Cordelia will continue to suffer steadily worsening side effects from her visions, and there will be much angst as she refuses to have them mystically removed in order to save her life, and Something Will Have To Be Done, said something which will doubtless involve her being strengthened my an infusion of demon essence (or some goddam thing) and she'll be all better, and maybe, given how vain she normally is, have horns and weird colored skin and a tail, too... nothing that would really interfere with Charisma Carpenter's babe appeal, but something Cordelia can angst about. (Can't be an actress with a tail, don't you know.) Or, she might die, but I can't get that lucky.
I should note, to keep from hurting Charisma Carpenter's feelings if she ever does read this, that my dislike of Cordelia is a tribute to her fine, fine acting talents in creating such a three dimensional and convincing portrayal of such a shallow little trollop of a character. And, she's a babe. Good work there on the babe thing, Charisma.
Personally, having now seen the Evil Angel episodes, and realizing for the first time to an emotional certainty just how evil he was, not just to random historical NPCs back in the 19th Century but to 'real people' I actually care about (Buffy and her friends) I find it wildly unlikely that Cordelia would ever be able to really relax and trust Angel again. (I actually find it wildly unlikely that Cordelia would want to be on the same continent with Angel again.) And I think Angel and Cordelia should sit down and have a chat about this. Were I writing the show, I would have Angel discover that Cordelia keeps an anti-vampire kit... crucifix, stake, squirt gun of holy water... in her purse, and not only that, she has ever since she started working for him... and have him talk to her about it, so the two of them can get this issue out in the open. Otherwise, Cordelia working for a guy who once killed one of her teachers and put her body in another teacher's bed, then sent vampires to the library to kill her and all her friends after luring the Slayer away... a guy she KNOWS can revert to The Ultimate Evil in a heartbeat... this strikes me as really, really unrealistic. Especially given that she also now knows that Angel can betray her without even losing his soul.
Where did Angel get the money to buy all those new outfits for Cordie, anyway? Did he secretly keep a chunk of the cash he stole from Wolfram & Hart and turned over to the shelter for homeless kids? Or does he have a magic rock in the basement that makes newspaper into gold?
OZ - As noted under Willow, Seth Green needs to take a good look around, realize he's never had it better than when he was on BUFFY, and send Joss Whedon a great big fruit basket to get back onto the show post haste. I mean, come on, he's in a remake of CANNONBALL RUN with Whoopie Goldberg, for gods' sake.
If Oz returned (and I haven't heard a breath of a rumor that he might, so I'm not expecting him to), I'd expect this to confound and confuse Willow, which can never be a bad thing. As for Oz himself, clearly, with his lycanthropy under some sort of control, and hopefully a bigger and better FX budget, he could add some much needed muscle to the Scooby Gang. But, as I say, I don't expect him to come back.
ANYA - My best prediction on developments with Anya is that Xander breaks off their engagement and she reverts to vengeance demon form in order to mess with him. I mean, how much longer can this 'quirky perspective on human affairs' crap go on? It would also generate an interesting running storyline for Xander, so that's two birds with one stone. (Yummy dead birds.)
ANGEL - I'm content to wait and see what will happen with Angel. Clearly, Buffy will no longer be involved, and, for that matter, neither will Faith (Eliza Dushku wants to concentrate on her film career) so who does that leave to be interested in... Gunn, Cordelia, and Wesley? Feh.
If a new Slayer is activated and shows up in L.A., that could be interesting. And Wolfram & Hart are always fun villains, although the loss of Lindsay will be felt there... Lilah is hot, but just doesn't have Lindsay's class or charm, in my opinion. Also, if we get back into more psychodrama with the bad folks from Angel's past... Darla, Drusilla, maybe a defecting Spike... that would be fine. Hell, I wouldn't mind seeing the Master turn up in L.A. as a regular villain for Angel; in fact, that would be kind of cool.
How Angel will deal with Buffy's death might also be interesting, although there's really no one for him to go after seeking vengeance. I imagine my interest in Angel and his crew will pick up once the new shows start, but right now, I'm still suffering from that awful Season Finale adventure in the truly stupid demon dimension. Angel certainly is a complex enough character and has a rich enough history of his own that we don't need to go traipsing off to idiotic alternate worlds, and if we do, we don't need to stay there for THREE EPISODES!
Having recently managed to see a commercially released package of six BUFFY episodes dealing with her relationship with Angel during the second season, I have to say that I'm only now aware that not only did he lose his soul for a time after sleeping with her, but he actually stayed evil, and became her arch enemy, for most of the last half of the second season. Seeing Buffy and her friends gradually come to accept that they would never see the 'good' Angel again had a pretty profound effect on me; prior to this, I'd intellectually known that Angel had gone evil for a while, but I hadn't seen it. To me, Angel had always been a tragic hero. Now that I've seen him as a brilliantly evil and malevolent sociopath, I really have to emotionally question the believability of, at the very least, Cordelia, reposing any trust or faith in Angel at all. Had I been around when he went nuts and killed Jenny Calendar, I'd never want to be in the same state with him... and if I had to be, I'd carry a damned big cross, a supersoaker full of holy water, and a nice sharp stake at all times.
In light of my theories regarding the function of the soul in the Buffy universe, above, it's interesting to speculate on just what is happening to Angel, when he loses and regains his soul again. Clearly, it seems like he transforms from one entity into an entirely different one, and since he is constantly going on about 'the demon inside me', and since on both occasions we've seen his soul return to him, he seems to have suffered from temporary amnesia as to his activities while the soul was gone, it would be easy to make the assumption that the soul IS 'Angel', the original Angel, and when it's not attached to his body, an entirely separate, demonic entity wakes up and controls it.
However tempting that may be, I don't believe it. For one thing, as I've mentioned over and over again, if Angel's evil acts are all committed by a demon who isn't really him, he has nothing to feel ashamed of. It's only the actions he takes while he's actually got his soul that should be of legitimate moral concern to him, because only those actions are actually committed by the real him. If Angel's guilt and torment over his own evil acts isn't really valid, the character is a generally pointless one. It would be like discovering in the last episode of THE FUGITIVE that Richard Kimble really did kill his wife, then had a psychotic breakdown, imagined the One Armed Man as a way to let him deny his own guilt, and then embarked on a years long odyssey for someone who didn't exist. Not only does it make the whole thing pointless, it makes you feel kind of stupid for having watched the show all along.
Furthermore, the pre-vampire Angel, back in 18th century Ireland, is not at all the heroic, noble crusading Angel we see in the modern day. He's a worthless lush, perpetually balanced between real good and real evil, irresponsible, brash, and foolish, wavering between extremes of great kindness and great brutality. In other words, he's a man who hasn't yet made up his mind between his light and his dark sides. What I postulate is that when Angel became a vampire and lost his soul, his higher moral sense departed, and his brilliantly evil dark side came to the fore... and it was that innate talent for cruelty and evil that Darla sensed in him from the start. That dark side is as much the real Angel as the heroic part, and without a soul, that dark side came out and became the 'real' Angel for over a century... and that's what Angel feels guilty about.
Let's remember, when Angel is first cursed, the Gypsy standing there tells him that his memories will return. Basically, the shock of losing his soul, and then having it suddenly returned, causes Angel to undergo a personality shift very nearly as profound as a schizoid break... and although he and Angelus aren't really distinct personalities in the same person (they share a common memory), the shock of transforming from one to another causes temporary amnesia... at least, in Angel. Angelus has no difficulty remembering being Angel; it disgusts him, but it doesn't threaten him. Angel, on the other hand, probably needs temporary amnesia after a stint as Angelus, or he'd simply go insane.
As I mentioned in Part 1, the recent revelation that Angel CAN have sex without losing his soul, as long as it doesn't make him happy, would seem to open the door for romance for our vampire with a soul... or, well, if not romance, then at least, a sex life. Of course, is Angel with a soul shallow enough to pursue sex just for sex's sake, without the intimacy of a romantic relationship? I suspect he may think he can, and then find himself tormented by deeper feelings for whoever he gets involved with, forcing him to break off the relationship because he'll never be quite sure when he might actually achieve happiness and then lose his soul again... man. Being Angel would be a bummer, cool hair or not.
WESLEY WYNDHAM-PRICE - Who cares? Okay... eventually Angel will have to make a push to once more take over leadership of the investigation agency, and since Wesley has this massive insecurity/inferiority complex going on all wrapped up with his disapproving father and his love life never working out and him generally being an incompetent bungler, that will make him all depressed and upset, especially if it happens because he's done something really stupid and Angel actually had to take over in an emergency and solve the problem. Then he'll be all mopey until some cute chick that for some reason he really shouldn't be sleeping with (like, she's evil) shows up and jumps him.
RILEY FINN - Please be dead.
TARA - I don't even know if Tara is real. If she is, I imagine she and Willow are going to go through a bad break up this upcoming season, after which, Tara will probably disappear (she doesn't bring anything to the show that Willow doesn't have, and they've had a season and a half to develop her into something interesting, and haven't).
Assuming Tara isn't real, she probably doesn't know it, and upon finding out, she might do some sort of mystical ceremony to give herself a truly independent existence from Willow, which would then require Willow to do something to re-absorb her into herself, which could turn Tara into an enemy of the Scooby Gang, because she won't like that. (I wouldn't, either.) Or Willow, upon finding out the truth and mystically re-absorbing Tara, could be so upset about it that she starts manifesting Tara as a separate personality, which would be an interesting acting challenge for Alyson Hannigan.
Or, like Steven Siegal, Tara could EXPLODE! - ON - DEADLY - GROUND!!!
But that probably won't happen.
If Tara is real, and she and Willow do go through a bad breakup, I suppose she could become a recurring enemy of the Scooby Gang, or even get et by a vampire and turned into one herself, or, I don't know, take over the job of vengeance demon that Anya lost and Willow didn't take back in the fourth season. Or she could get a job being fired out of a cannon at the circus. But probably not.
SPIKE - I like Spike, but honestly, I can't see anything more they can do with him, other than take his chip out again and let him go back to being bad... then stake him. Much of Spike's background is intertwined with Angel's, so most of that won't be exploitable. They could also have Spike continue to become more and more 'human', but ultimately that would hit a dead end, too.
One interesting thing that might be done with Spike at the start of next season would be to have him 'steal' Dawn out of foster care, or away from her father, because he's sure 'it's what Buffy would want'. Having Dawn spend some time living in Spike's tomb with him, with Spike as an authority figure, buddy, and role model, could have an interesting effect... especially when Buffy comes back to life and finds out where little sis has been. However, that's just an interesting speculation at this point.
Spike could also study the black arts and master various demonic rituals and powers allowing him to do freaky things like take his head off and walk around carrying it under his arm and stuff, while still talking to people, which would really give everyone the wiggins. Plus, he could then hurl his head as a missile weapon in combat, which could be useful.
Or, he could become a master of the boomerang.
I don't think those last two are very likely, though.
DAWN - Where Dawn ends up now that both her mother and older sister are dead (at least, for a while) is an interesting subject to speculate about. One would think foster care would be an option, or being taken by her father, or running away, or hiding out with Spike, who obviously wouldn't much care if its illegal for a 14 year old to live with someone who isn't her court appointed guardian.
An interesting possibility, what with all this 'the monks made her out of me' nonsense that Buffy was forced to spout off at the end of last season, would be that the new Slayer turns out to be... Dawn. A 14 year old Slayer might be exactly what the Scooby Gang would need to pull them together, as a training team and support apparatus, and could even make them all reluctantly cooperate with Spike sheltering Dawn in his crypt, since the alternatives would almost certainly be foster care or being taken away by her father... both of which would leave Sunnydale without a Slayer.
This gets even more interesting once Buffy inevitably comes back to life and finds out her younger sister is now a Slayer (as well as still being The Key). Sunnydale has had a Slayer team in residence prior to this, but having it be Buffy and Dawn Summers raises some fascinating possibilities... especially since there should be at least a few demonic entities dwelling in or around Sunnydale who will know that Dawn is a relatively new addition to the local timeline, and hasn't been around as long as everybody thinks she has.
Or, Dawn might not become the Slayer, but she could get a puppy instead.
GUNN - You'd think he'd have to get more interesting, but I doubt it. Unless they turn him into a vampire or reveal he's really 1/4 demon or somehow give him psychic powers, I honestly can't see him bringing much of anything to the Angel table except, you know, him being the token minority. I suggested to a pen pal quite some time ago that they could turn Gunn into a sort of makeshift, jury rigged engineer and weapons genius, sort of like the Kris Kristofferson character in BLADE, which would at least let him serve a useful function not already duplicated by someone else in Angel Investigations... but the writers have had most of a season to find something interesting to do with Gunn, and they still seem clueless. With Angel back in the group, he's kind of overshadowed as a fighter type, he's certainly not a scholar, and his street contacts don't seem useful enough to justify him having a full time role.
About the only thing I can think they may do with him is set up a romance between him and Cordelia... which, I suppose, could be interesting... but as I don't much like either character, I find at this point I can't much care.
If they did turn him into the engineer-weapons guy - MacGyver type, though, it would not only give him a useful function, but it would allow him to provide occasional comic relief, too. Imagine the following scene:
WESLEY: Good Lord, Gunn, why are the draperies on fire, and what in God's name is that dreadful smell?
GUNN: Oh. Heh heh. Just testin' out my new prototype flaming garlic blaster, ol' buddy. It works!
WESLEY: On the DRAPERIES? ::beating fire out with some heavy, ancient tome::
GUNN: Well, actually, I was aiming at a monster cockroach but those mothers are FAST.
ANGEL: Geez, guys, why are the curtains on fire and what stinks like burnt garlic?
WESLEY & GUNN: Burnt garlic.
WESLEY: And it's HIS fault.
GUNN: Just trying to get rid of the cockroaches, man.
ANGEL: I'm a vampire! I like cockroaches! Hey, aren't one of you two minions supposed to eat bugs? I read that somewhere.
GUNN: That sounds like a job for Cordie.
WESLEY: Yes, yes, I'll do a memo... wait a moment..!
WESLEY & GUNN: Minions?!?
GUNN: He just called a man with a half loaded flaming garlic blaster a minion... say, where'd he go?
WESLEY: He's much swifter than a cockroach.
See? It would be great! But no one ever listens to me.
FAITH - will stay in jail or die, since Eliza Dushku doesn't want to do TV right now. Maybe they can at least talk her into an occasional brief cameo.
HARMONY - Who cares? Mercedes McNab is both a babe and an excellent actress, but honestly, I have no real interest in Harmony. Sorry.
DARLA - Bring back the Master, put him in L.A., and team him up with Darla again as Angel's worst enemy, and you've got a ball game. Otherwise, it's hard to see what else we can do with Darla. (I can think of plenty of fun things to do with the utterly delectable Julie Benz, but Darla? Brrrrrr. Lindsay must be utterly insane.)
DRUSILLA - Ick. Ew. Drusilla should go form a romantic relationship with Riley's corpse in Central America.
In fact, I think she'd like that.
I. THE UNIVERSE
While I take second place to none in generally reviling the last story arc in this season of ANGEL, where our merry crew of heroes wound up in a truly appallingly stupid demon dimension undergoing various spiritual and physical transformations as they tried to rescue Cordelia, I have to admit, it allows for some interesting speculation as to the nature of the Buffy Multiverse.
One of the most interesting things is the fact that in this demon dimension, everybody speaks English. Not only that, but their holy books are written in English, and when demons come through portals from that dimension to Earth, they all speak English, too.
Now, naturally, we have a dichotomy here. There is the reason for this (the writers are lazy and think the audience is too stupid to notice), and then, hopefully, there is a justification for this (which I have to make up for you, because the writers were too lazy to tell it to us, and thought we were so stupid they didn't have to).
Primarily, I think we can explain this, and a bunch of other truly appallingly idiotic drivel that got splattered all over our TV screens during this badly conceived sidetracking into lousy Conan pastiche, by stating that our dimension, Earth, is, as has been implied in several episodes of BUFFY, the only really 'material' dimension. All other dimensions are more ethereal and spiritual, or, to put it another way, exist on a more highly energized quantum level.
What this means is that material bodies and solid objects, as we think of them, don't really exist in other dimensions. Everything is more or less virtual and existential... the entire planes of existence are basically mental in nature, and everything there is a mental projection. It's all subjective. And when beings or objects transfer from Earth to an outer dimension, or vice versa, a translation or transformation takes place. The more ethereal entities from the outer dimensions gain solid, material forms here on Earth. And, vice versa, the more material, solid forms from Earth gain more ethereal, intellectual, ideal forms in these outer dimensions.
This explains, basically, why Angel isn't a vampire on the Host's planet... his 'material' body there is simply a mental projection of Angel's own self image, and although Angel knows he is a vampire, he still essentially regards himself as human.
It also explains the whole language issue. Basically, in the outer dimensions, there is no curse of Babel, and the reason for this is, every individual self aware entity there is an entirely mental creature. They don't actually speak other than psychically. Therefore, there is no actual language; everyone effectively communicates telepathically.
I should note in passing, that of course, if this is the case, what we saw as the Host's dimension probably does not even roughly approximate what is actually there. It's simply how our heroes from Earth perceived it, their brains recasting the direct perceptions they received into more familiar terms (generally, from bad movies and TV shows and comic books). This goes a long way towards explaining a lot of the frankly absurd, inconsistent, and stupid details of that dimension.
It's also about the ONLY explanation I can come up with that not only covers Angel's body not being subject to vampiric limitations, Angel's body shifting depending on which of his personas was dominant at any given time, how a dimension can possibly not have music (music evolves, at its most basic, from mimicking the natural rhythms of nature all around us, including the rhythms of our own heartbeat and respiration; that a humanoid, sentient race could live for thousands of years and never even develop the drums as a musical instrument is simply nonsensical), and, well, the whole language thing.
It also explains how exposure to such a dimension over a course of years would gradually cause a human from Earth, used to a less subjective surrounding reality, to go insane, and how the Deathwalk Clan can continue to survive while beheaded, until their body is so chopped up and mauled that they can no longer hold it together as a coherent mental projection, and, most likely, how a psychic power can be transferred from one individual being there to another through sexual intimacy.
None of which makes the actual episodes any better, and I sincerely hope that our various heroes will be staying firmly on Buffy-Earth from now on.
Now that I consider it, this could also explain that 'tainted' crack Anya made regarding all humanoid demons. 'Tainted' could simply mean 'tainted' by being on Earth and having actual real, working, biological, material bodies... tainted with the flesh, in other words, or with mortality. This might especially apply to those demons who are apparently born on Earth and thus, have never been free of their material, biological bodies. Perhaps only demons from higher, immaterial dimensions are considered to be 'untainted'. Although that doesn't explain why the capital D Demons, who also have material bodies, are not considered 'tainted'. Perhaps the Mayor's Ascension was not supposed to stop with his transformation into a big snake; perhaps that was just a stage on the way to his actually becoming a mighty immaterial energy entity who would have left this Earth behind altogether... or worse, remained here as some unstoppable psychic being.
J. MAGIC -
If there is any discrete point where Willow seems to transform from being computer geek par excellence into a gifted and talented practitioner of the supernatural and sorcerous arts, it seems to be at the end of the second season, when she successfully conjures Angel's soul back for him (right before Buffy has to kill him to seal the portal that Evil Angel has opened, that will destroy the world). Giles himself had warned her, previous to her casting the spell, that doing so could 'open a door that cannot be closed', and Willow states after casting the spell that she 'felt something pass through' her.
This gives rise to some interesting speculations on the nature of magic itself. If Gods are, as previously hypothesized, creatures that can feed off and gain sustenance from the psychic energy of lesser, mortal beings, they also seem to be creatures that can effect fundamental, if generally short term, changes and disruptions in the very fabric of reality of the material realm of Earth. They can affect the weather, change history, grant wishes, alter the nature of reality itself... and yet, all of these changes seem to be of limited term and to take enormous energy to maintain, judging from what we've seen. They can also grant these powers to lesser, mortal beings, but the manipulation of reality in any way outside the consistent physical laws of the universe requires enormous, detailed rituals that often involve the blood of the practitioner.
I'd theorize that in fact, the gods, from a higher plane, have the ability to directly manipulate the material fabric of our reality more or less at will, with their higher, more powerful consciousnesses, in much the same way we can manipulate clay or make a sand castle. When a mortal being does magic, he or she is basically simply drawing on the power of the gods through a linkage to them. In most cases, they must do very elaborate rituals and often sacrifice someone else, probably to use the energy released by that entity's death to form a temporary, fleeting link to the higher planes to draw power through.
The rituals also help to both focus the mind and attention of the sorcerer, and to attract the attention of the gods themselves, who hopefully will favor the spell being done and help if they can, or at least, refrain from doing anything disruptive. Rituals could be the equivalent of a wizard putting up a psychic flag saying "I'm working here, please don't make a loud noise or slam any doors, thank you". Also, without a ritual, the witch's mind might not be focused enough, and the rush of power could well drive him or her insane, or even kill them.
Thus, it could well be that 'magic' is simply what we call it when a mortal being borrows, momentarily, through elaborate ritual, the power of the gods to make a fundamental alteration to local reality. Use of magic would increase the mortal mind's focus and discipline and almost certainly allow the honing of minor, 'normal' psychic powers, like limited telekinesis, which we've seen in both Willow and Tara, although the use of such 'powers' would not be considered 'magic' in and of themselves, as this greater intellectual and psychic facility is simply a byproduct of the mental disciplines of casting powerful spells, and does not require borrowing power from higher planes.
This would also explain what Willow did to strengthen her sorcerous abilities before confronting Glory head on... she doubtless conducted a ritual, or rituals, that would temporarily strengthen her psychic link with the higher planes, allowing her to draw on the power of the gods at a much higher rate and in a much greater amount than is normal for her. Such a connection didn't last long, and I'd honestly think there should be a high price to be paid afterward, which we unfortunately did not see at the time, probably because the writers were pressed to get a lot of plot into a 44 minute episode. Still, Willow should, at some point in the future, be shown having to pay some kind of price for the increased power she has wielded in the fifth season. It would be interesting to see Anya, or Xander prompted by Anya, confront Willow on this and ask just how she's paying for all this new power she's been throwing around.
Having recently watched once more the episode of BUFFY where we first find out Ben and Glory share a body, or, at least, a space-time coordinate, I'm more and more chagrined to discover just how lousy a fit the obviously hastily cobbled together resolution to the Glory storyline was at the end of the Fifth Season. In this previous episode, Ben and Glory clearly refer to each other as siblings, and Glory tells Dawn that there is indeed a lock that the 'Key' fits into, and then goes into a deranged tirade about Dawn and Ben trying to get a look at Glory's 'unmentionables'... none of which accords well with what we were eventually told. It seems clear that outside pressures forced Whedon to abandon whatever his original storyline was and instead, we got this mess, which not only didn't fit at all with what hints and clues we'd been previously given, but which also turns out to be little more than a retread of basic conflict in 'Becoming', where Angel's blood is used to open a dimensional vortex that will destroy the world, and Buffy can only close the vortex again by killing him.
At this point, though, we seem stuck with it, as no one in their right mind would want to see BUFFY spend even more time on a plot line that was too damn long and drawn out already. From now on we'll simply have to ignore all conflicting evidence, accept this basically nonsensical story resolution, and move on.
What makes this all a bit more palatable to me is the knowledge that Whedon was most likely building up to something really interesting before outside considerations forced him to set his original story aside, and therefore, he hasn't just run out of ideas, as I'd been afraid he might have.
THINGS I CAN'T EVEN REMOTELY BEGIN TO EXPLAIN OR JUSTIFY ON BUFFY-EARTH:
*Humanoid robots built by some college sophomore engineering student that can pass not only a Turing test, but can also have sex with humans and vampires. Not to mention jump around acrobatically doing flying high kicks and such. This is utterly insane.
* Vampires who use hair gel. Where do they get it? Why do they care?
* How Spike has electricity in a crypt, and no one notices.
* How anyone who wants to, even a disturbed high school kid in a mental ward, can get hold of occult tomes that allow them to transform reality on a fundamental basis. Besides Jonathan doing this, we've seen the Monks of Whoozamajoogie do it with Dawn, and Anya do it by granting Cordelia's wish.
* Where a lot of people get their money from. (But this is pretty typical to TV shows, actually. Reverend Camden, on 7th HEAVEN, has to be the most highly paid preacher who isn't a televangelist on the face of the planet. Have you SEEN that house he lives in? He has SEVEN KIDS! He's paying to put two of them through college! They have two cars, at least! And they go out for pizza a LOT! It's totally whack!)
* Why no one ever seems to have noticed that Anya didn't have any parents, back when she was in high school. Where did she live?
* Why no one Buffy knows has siblings, except Tara, whose might not be real, and Buffy herself, whose isn't.
* How the Knights of Byzantium got from one place to another without someone complaining about all the horse crap.
* Why Ben and Glory referred to each other as brother and sister when we later found out Ben was just a mortal body built to contain Glory and keep her imprisoned by Glory's fellow Hellgods.
* Why Amy is still a rat.
* Why demons are all bumpy.
* Where werewolves' clothes go when they change.
* Whether Lindsay and Giles have ever played in the same band, and if not, why.
* How any living human being can get naked and jump into bed with someone they know is a bloodsucking ghoul. I'm sorry, but that's just frigging deranged. (Literally.)
And, in the end, that’s all I got, or rather, all I want to put down, as this thing is waaaay too long as it is.