Anya Christina Emanuella Jenkins (“made up, lame ass maiden name”) aka Aud aka Anyanka, the Patron Saint of Women Scorned: these are the names of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s best and most complex character. There are some who may be baffled by that statement. There are a lot of characters within the Buffyverse who are extremely complex. Anya just happens to stand above them, for me. I have traveled to the top of the mountain of my statement, and I have staked a flag in that mountain. For anyone who has not yet watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there be spoilers as I guide you to the top of Mt. Anya.
Anya (Emma Caulfield) began her Buffyverse journey as Anyanka, a vengeance demon who grants one wish to any woman scorned by a man. Within her first episode, season 3’s The Wish, she was just the puppet master of the plot of the episode. Her onscreen time may come in at just under 10 minutes as she was there to grant Cordelia’s (Charisma Carpenter) wish after having been cheated on by Xander (Nicholas Brendon). But in that small amount of screen time, there was something that fans found interesting. No one expected her to go beyond this one episode, and eventually end up staying in Sunnydale until the final episode of the series. But that she did.
She lost her demon powers, became human, fell in love with the guy who was the reason she was brought to Sunnydale, did some magnificent singing during the musical episode, was left at the altar by the same guy, became a vengeance demon again, did some bad (eh, actually good) things including slaughtering an entire fraternity, lost her vengeance demon status at her own will, and did all of this while winning my heart.
Tact is something that Anya did not dabble in as she traversed life as a demon vengeance turned human. No, no, no. She had too much to learn, and giving a damn about what she said was not one of her learned attributes. This led her to become the comic relief for the majority of season 4. As viewers settled into her character, this was okay. This was just Anya warming up.
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During season 5’s The Body which saw the gang reacting to Joyce’s (Kristine Sutherland) non-supernatural death, Anya breaks away from her humor, and gives one of the best monologues of the series. Not understanding how a human can just die, she begins asking questions that Willow (Alyson Hannigan) finds crude and disrespectful. As what seems to be an argument begins to escalade, Anya stops everyone with the monologue. Within 30 seconds, one of my top Buffy moments was created when Anya delivers her true first emotional response.
“No one expected [Anya] to […] end up staying in Sunnydale until the final episode of the series. But that she did.”
She’s covered humor and heartbreaking, but what about the evil shown by the vengeance demon part of her, Anyanka? We got a taste in her first episode, but we got the whole dinner meal when she returned to her roots in season 7. Specifically, within the episode that she killed the entire frat. During the episode, Anya and Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) battle it out. During that battle, we got to experience the coldhearted aura that Anya could exude. The stone cold look in her eye combined with her dry wit isn’t something that one could just shake away after experiencing 3 seasons of an Anya that was good and fought evil.
The moments I listed above are just the tip of the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Anya’s best moments. They are a small reason as to why I believe her to be one of the best characters on Buffy. What really brings me to the top of the mountain is that Anya is easily one of the most relatable characters for me. She has an awkwardness that she can’t shy away from because it’s a part of her. The capacity of her willingness to be blunt and honest while trying to understand a certain aspect of life is something that I looked up to, and yearned for within my own personality. The personal demons that she fought made her all the more human due to the emotions that she experienced.
The monologue from The Body is the majority of us when dealing with a loved one’s death. We don’t know how to respond. We don’t know what to do next. Any attempt to voice any emotion will be painful and most likely will be awkward. That’s exactly how she portrayed her emotions. When Xander left her at the altar, she responded with pain and retribution. I’ve been there, and at the time, thought that the pain and wanted retribution was an overreaction. But no, Anya taught me that these are just human emotions, and they can not be helped. She also helped me realize that irrational fears are a part of the human psyche. She feared bunnies (Bunnies! Bunnies! It must be buuu-uuuuuun-uh-neeeees!), and I fear balloons.
Through all of her growth, her lessons, her evil back and forth, and many hair styles, Anya was an important part of the Scooby Gang. But I am still not over the heartless exit that she was given in the series finale. MAJOR SPOILER WARNING. Anya dies in the finale. She’s killed off unceremoniously with a blink or you miss it slice by an extra in the final battle while protecting who is basically the male version of her character, Andrew (Tom Lenk). Don’t get me wrong, I love Andrew, as well, but to blandly kill off Anya over him? Seventeen year old me was shook to the core, and didn’t even have time to mourn the loss of his favorite character.
“Through all of her growth, her lessons, her evil back and forth, and many hair styles, Anya was an important part of the Scooby Gang.”
This didn’t go unnoticed by Emma Caulfield. In the 20th anniversary special done by EW, she states, “What I noticed about the finale was how little everyone cared that I died.” Not me, Emma. I cared! And to this day, I’m still irked it. But also to this day, I appreciate every ounce of care and love that Emma put into Anya. Emma still carries on Anya’s legacy with pride and respect. EW even gave her a chance to write an eulogy for Anya during the 20th anniversary with which she ended, “Though she died without much fanfare (like, ‘Oh well, Anya’s dead, later!), her courage, her legacy, her selflessness lives on. And that gives me something to sing about.”
Me too, Emma.
While 1,000 words isn’t enough to express the complexity and the full dynamic character that Anya is, I’ve done my best. Because of her, I will always want to trade out my children for money in the game of Life, I will always use “Penis!” as an expletive, and I have a character on my favorite TV show to refer back to on how to deal with life.