Evil Evoking Sympathy: How the Mayor Won Hearts

If there is anything that makes Joss Whedon stand out even more than he already does, it’s his ability to make complex antagonists who manage to create a laundry list of emotions in viewers. Being a huge fan of Buffy and Angel (I’ve even read all the comic continuations of the series), the Big Bad who stands out to me most after all these years is Mayor Wilkins.

The man speaks the truth. Image via buffyandangeltrainspotters.com

When we first meet the mayor (or hear of him, rather), there is an aura of mystery and danger about him. Whenever Principal Snyder mentions him, it’s in an almost reverent tone. When Mayor Wilkins comes on screen, we see that he has some serious quirks.

He hates germs. He regularly comments to his aide about cleanliness, going so far as to ask if one of them washed under his fingernails. He is also polite and friendly to almost everyone in a genteel, Leave It To Beaver sort of way. All of that is well and good, but his real moment happens when Faith turns to his side.

Faith Lehane is a troubled young woman. While some people might argue with this statement, I think her sexuality is the only part of her life that she has under control. She decides who she sleeps with and when, and it seems to be the only elective she has. Faith is a Slayer called after Kendra died, but Buffy is still head honcho. Though Faith is technically the continuation of the true Slayer line, she is forced to play second fiddle to Buffy. She has different methods and a very different background. No family, no friends, no real connections after she saw her Watcher murdered.

Until she meets the Mayor.

He sets her up in a fabulous loft apartment with exposed brick and a blue color scheme I can’t help but envy. Gaming equipment galore. For a girl from Southie who grew up in poverty, this is the big cahoona. One of their early exchanges begins to set the tone of their relationship when she thanks him for the apartment.

Faith: Thanks, sugar daddy.

Mayor: Now, Faith. You know I don’t like that. I’m a family man. Now, let’s kill your little friend.

Not her normal look.

From that moment, their relationship becomes familial. From the pink dress he gives her to wear to his Ascension to the glasses of milk he offers her to drink, his affection for her is clear even as he plots to become a full-blooded demon snake and eat Sunnydale’s class of 1999. Together they conspire to make Angel lose his soul, and the Mayor acts like Angel is a date coming to his house to take out his daughter.

He calls her his little firecracker and gives her gifts. Even though he’s evil, his love for Faith is evident — especially when Faith shoots Angel with a poisoned arrow and the only antidote is the blood of a Slayer.

Buffy goes after Faith with Faith’s prized knife as her weapon, and she manages to nearly gut Faith, giving her a beating that puts her in a coma.

The Mayor’s reaction to this makes you forget that he is evil. While standing in her ruined apartment, he repeats over and over, “She’ll be all right. Faith’s a good girl. She’ll be all right.” He finds her comatose in the hospital. Racked with crippling pain, he tries to smother an unconscious Buffy in the adjacent room, roaring at everyone, “Did you see what she did to my Faith?”

His love for Faith becomes his downfall, the humanizing element that gets him where Buffy needs him once he becomes the giant snake.

Their relationship is expounded upon in flashbacks in season four, dreams in Faith’s mind while she slumbers. You see more love and normalcy and Buffy painted as the villain who destroyed Faith’s family. When Faith wakes, she finds a video he left her along with the gadget that allows her to switch bodies with Buffy in “Who Are You?” Even later, in season seven, the First Evil is able to manifest to Faith as the Mayor, and you see that connection revived.

Through all the spider eating and baby tributes to demons, the Mayor is a fully-realized villain and one of the best I’ve ever seen. He evokes feelings of fury and pity alike, and if you’re like me, you ached for him when Faith was lying in that hospital. Their relationship is one of the show’s most poignant, and in spite of their poor decision-making, you relate to them.

For that, Mayor Wilkins is today’s Monday Man and the first in a series of posts about the Big Bads of Buffy. To a fascinating villain and a guy who loves his calcium and Little Women, this one’s for the Mayor.

 

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About Emmie Mears

Saving the world from brooding, one self-actualized vampire at a time.

Posted on February 27, 2012, in Buffy, Monday Man and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. The Mayor was great, devious but utterly charming. I just never could understand why he wanted to be a gigantic snake 🙂

  2. Loved this! The Mayor is one of my favorite Big Bads of all time!

  3. I broke out in laughter when I read your comment Emmie! That was a great season. Faith brought so much to the table. The dynamics between her, the mayor and buffy were awesome!

  4. classywithatwist

    Joss has a knack for creating the lovable bad guy. Yeah, you don’t want them to destroy the world, but you don’t want to see them killed off either. You like them, but you don’t like where their headed. They entertain you. The mayor’s humanity is what makes him lovable. Spike, and the nerds also fall into the lovable bad guy category.

  5. I really liked The Mayor character too. He’s such a good example of how to really do antagonist right. Not only did he have depth, he was a blast to watch!

    I like classywithatwist’s comment about the “lovable bad guy.” I think if the viewer has conflicted feelings about the bad guy in a story, and even finds themselves wanting him to choose a different path, everything becomes much more interesting.

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