"THE ESSENCE OF THE FIRST SLAYER’S POWER"
One of the more controversial characters that has appeared on "BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER" happened to be the character known as the First Slayer. First introduced in the Season Four finale, (4.22) "Restless", the First Slayer’s presence stirred a great deal of controversy amongst the series’ fans and critics. However, I am not really interested in the controversies that have surrounded the character. I am more interested with her role as a demon slayer and how this role related to Buffy and other Slayers throughout history.
To clarify myself, I would have to start with the origins of the First Slayer. Thousands of years ago, three East African shamans became wary of the increasing demonic activity plaguing their community. To deal with the matter, the trio came up with the idea to create a supernaturally enhanced demon slayer. They kidnapped an adolescent girl named Sineya, staked her to one spot and implanted her with the essence of a demon. The possession entailed supernatural strength, stamina, a predatorial instinct, fast reflexes, rapid healing, intuition and prophetic dreams . . . enough abilities for a Slayer to face vampires and other supernatural bad guys. In other words, the three shamans committed supernatural rape upon an innocent girl in order to create a weapon they could utilize and control. But this article is not about the moral ramifications of the shamans’ act. It is about how the essence of the First Slayer related to the series’ leading character, Buffy Anne Summers.
Buffy and the other Scoobies – Willow Rosenberg, Xander Harris and Watcher Rupert Giles – had spent most of Season Four dealing with the U.S. Army sponsored task force called the Initiative and the mess the latter had created in capturing and experimenting on demons. The organization’s biggest mistake turned out to be a human/demon Frankenstein-style hybrid created by the Initiative’s leading scientist, Dr. Maggie Walsh. After killing Dr. Walsh, this monster – named Adam – created more havoc throughout Sunnydale by killing innocents and recruiting other human/demon hybrids (read: vampires) to his cause for a new order. In the second-to-last episode, (4.21) "Primeval", Buffy and the Scoobies finally managed to defeat the near invincible Adam. They did so by using a spell to invoke the powers of the First Slayer to be put into Buffy’s body. Each Scooby represented the main attributes of the First Slayer’s powers – the Spirit, the Heart, the Mind and the Hands – in the spell. Willow acted as symbol of the First Slayer’s Spirit, Xander as the Heart, Giles as the Mind and Buffy as the Hands. By invoking the First Slayer’s power through Buffy, the Scoobies created a formidable foe that led to Adam’s defeat and death.
Many Buffyverse fans saw the spell invoked in "Primeval" as an argument why Buffy should never separate from her friends and Watcher. They saw the spell as an argument for the old saying - "no man is an island". But the spell led me to wonder about Buffy’s role as a Slayer and her connection to the other Scoobies. If those African shamans had created a Slayer that possessed enough strength to defeat someone like Adam, did that same strength ever get passed on to the Slayers that followed her? Slayers that included Faith . . . or Buffy? Or did Buffy and the other Slayers that followed only inherited one particular attribute of the First Slayer – namely the Hands, which all Slayers use to kill their prey?
If the First Slayer did pass on all of the abilities of her power to her successors, why did Buffy need the Scoobies to represent the Heart, the Spirit and the Mind of Sineya? Surely, she could have summoned all of those attributes within her to defeat Adam. Or perhaps Buffy’s problems in dealing with Adam had originated with her two Watchers – Rupert Giles and Merrick.
One of the aspects from Season Seven that I found interesting was Buffy’s transformation into a leader of adolescent girls with the 'the Potential' to become the Slayer. Unfortunately, Buffy’s introduction as a leader nearly ended in disaster, when the Potentials, the Scoobies, Dawn and everyone else rejected her leadership and tossed her out of the Summers house in (7.19) "Empty Places". Spike and Andrew were in Gilroy on a mission for Giles and missed the big event. Their rejection seemed understandable, considering that Buffy was on the road to becoming an ineffectual leader. And who is to blame? Buffy’s Watchers – Merrick and Giles. I found it ironic that Giles literally dumped the Potentials onto Buffy’s lap and told her that she needed to become a general. The problem was that neither Giles or Merrick ever taught Buffy how to lead. Instead, they taught her how to stalk and kill demons. They taught her how to utilize 'the Hands' of the First Slayer . . . and nothing more. To Giles, Merrick and the other Watchers, being a Slayer only meant being a killer of demons. I can only wonder if other Slayers between Sineya and Buffy were given the same limited lessons.
But what does this say about the other Scoobies’ roles in the battle against Adam? More specifically, what does this say about their roles in Buffy’s life? I am not advocating the idea that Buffy should have ended her friendship with the other three. But was it really necessary to invoke the First Slayer’s other three traits – the Spirit, the Heart, and the Mind – through the Scoobies? Personally, I believe that Buffy could have found a way to use all four traits on her own . . . if she had bothered to try. If she had inherited the power of Sineya like all of the other Slayers before her, I see no reason why she or any other Slayer throughout history could not learn to embrace all four of the First Slayer’s attributes as their own.
Or perhaps Buffy had already began to embrace the full power of the First Slayer by late Season Seven. She managed to prove that the old saying - 'no man is an island' - is not always true. After being booted by the others in "Empty Places" and comforted by a returning Spike in (7.20) "Touched", Buffy set out on her own to retrieve a magical scythe from another formidable foe, namely a misogynist priest named Caleb, endowed with the strength of the First Evil. And she succeeded. On her own. After retrieving the scythe, Buffy went on to rescue a wounded Faith and a group of Potentials who had wandered into a trap set by Caleb and the First Evil. Again, she achieved this on her own, using her Spirit, Heart, Mind and Hands.
Does this mean that Buffy should seriously consider that she might not always need the Scoobies by her side? Frankly . . . yes. Perhaps no one man or woman is an island, but each and every one of us is always alone, no matter how many people we surround ourselves with. With the Buffy saga continuing in comic books, perhaps Joss Whedon considered a new lesson for his main character and the fans – there are times when we need our friends, family or some kind of help with us; and there are times when we have to face the fact that each of us is alone. And sometimes, we have to set about on a task . . . by ourselves. If Buffy ever truly learn that lesson, she will truly learn to utilize the full power of the First Slayer’s essence on a regular basis.