Recently I’ve been rewatching Joss Whedon’s amazing Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel series, and I’ve hit upon something strange when it comes to the vampires in the series. There are a number of “named” vampires throughout the series, but the five with the most screen time are Angel, Spike, Drusilla, Darla, and Harmony. We also get to see in two episodes what Willow would be like as a vampire, which is significant to my hypothesis.
What I noticed was that some vampires, such as Angel and Darla, have completely different personalities as vampires than they do as humans. Angel is the most clear cut of this seemingly split personality; when cursed with a soul he is Angel, a warm, loving, courageous man. When his soul is lost he becomes Angelus, a murderous, twisted embodiment of evil. He literally shares almost no characteristics whatsoever with his “human” side. Granted that both Angel and Angelus are somewhat different than his original incarnation as a human, but that can be explained as time and experience. However, everyone in the two shows even treats Angel and Angelus as two completely different personalities, and in the later Angel episodes it seems that’s entirely the case.
Compare this with Spike. Spike did change when he became a vampire, going from a foppish poet to the action craving bad boy we meet at the start of Season Two of BtVS, but this is most likely from being released from his mortal responsibilities. In many ways he remains very similar to his human self. He falls madly in love with his sire, Drusilla, and becomes her devoted warrior-poet. When they finally split up, Spike professes true feelings for Drusilla and goes out of his way to get her back. Angelus, on the other hand, is a complete sociopath who doesn’t really care about anyone other than himself, not even his allies and lovers. When Spike eventually gets his soul back, he doesn’t change very much, and in fact only gains a moral compass that he was previously missing, doing things for the sake of good instead of just to impress Buffy, but he was already headed that way before he got his soul back. Spike really doesn’t change much at all, soul or no soul, so what gives?
Let’s look at Darla for a moment; Angel’s sire, she in turn is a child of The Master. As a human she was a somewhat vapid woman, but as a vampire she becomes a strong, evil force, much like Angelus. She fits in perfectly with the rest of the Master’s brood, especially Luke, the Master’s muscle bound lapdog. She is purely evil, using her looks to lure in men and feed upon them. She’s evil and manipulative and completely different than she was as a human.
How about vampire Willow? She was also a child of the Master in the alternative universe where Buffy didn’t come to Sunnydale. She is just a sociopathic as Angelus. She’s an unrepentant evil, and while Dark Willow of Season Six shares some definite similarities, there are differences. Most importantly, Dark Willow was driven by rage and grief, while vampire Willow is simply evil to the core. There is no piece of the Willow we know in the vampire version, while Dark Willow still maintains her humanity, perhaps too much so.
Then there’s Harmony, who is so unchanged from her human self as to be nearly indistinguishable. There’s literally almost no vampire nastiness in Harmony.
What’s the difference? Why are Darla and vampire Willow and Angel all so evil bastards and Spike and Harmony are relatively human? The answer, I believe is Drusilla.
Drusilla was, by all accounts, a young woman possessed of a psychic gift. Her power was particularly strong, and Angelus decided he wanted to see what would happen if he broke her mind and then made her a vampire. He tortured her, killed her family one by one, and generally drove her insane, though her visions had made that a comparatively short trip. In the end, she wound up as a completely insane vampire, and I believe it’s because of her psychic abilities that he bloodline became somewhat corrupted. Spike, her first creation, is a vampire who has not entirely lost his soul. He certainly may have some of the vampire, but there’s a temperance of humanity there, though not one that will show up until forced to the surface by the Initiative’s behavior chip. Harmony’s sire is some random vampire at the end of season three, but it’s entirely likely that this vampire was a creation of Spike or Drusilla from season two.
So perhaps Angelus’s little experiment created a new kind of vampire, one that didn’t entirely lose its soul during creation. The soul remains as an echo, stronger the further the bloodline gets from Angelus himself and the true vampire state. This also implies that Angelus truly is a completely different personality, while Spike is simply a human whose morality has been untethered from its compass.