1st Anniversary Character Posting Board Party - The Master
Kerri - September 18, 2001

I.A Very Old Vampire

The Master is a very, very old vampire; there must be something about him that has enabled him to live so long. Therefore, we can use this to learn what makes a vampire (and thus also a slayer) strong.


The Master is has been able to overcome fear, a force which holds back most people and vampires alike. He is able to face his fears and master(no pun intended) them. If fear is confronted it cannot control a person. The Master realizes that if he allows himself to be controlled by fear he will be weak. Most vampires and humans alike are held back by fear of death. The Master is clearly a very mentally strong vampire to be able to conquer such a powerful force.

MASTER: Fear is a wonderful thing. It is *the* most powerful force in the human world. (crouches to face Collin) Not love, not hate... Fear! When you were a mortal boy, what did you fear?
COLLIN: Monsters.
MASTER: Ooo. (gets up) We are *defined* by the things we fear. (goes to the large cross) This symbol, these two planks of wood, it confounds me. Suffuses me with mortal dread. But fear is in the mind. (puts his hand on the cross and holds on while it burns) Like pain. It can be controlled. (lets go) If I can face my fear, it cannot master me. ~Nightmares

Have you ever noticed that villains tend to have a great deal of insight? Fear is incredibly powerful and rules most people. We see that this is true of Ben; he is willing to allow Dawn and the rest of the world to die because of his fear of death. Ben is a bit of a paradox: he is as Dawn says "a monster", but at the same time he is not entirely evil either: he is the ordinary person, and thus he demonstrates the monster that is possible within each individual. When the choice comes down to him or the world it is Ben's fear that rules him.

We have seen both Buffy, in PG, and Dawn, in The Gift, make the opposite choice that Ben did; they chose to sacrifice their lives to save the world. In both these cases the character is terrified of death but willing to but that aside to save the world (note: I do not include Buffy in The Gift in this category because when she died she was above fear-she only had love-but I'll get to that in a minute). Th`ey are mentally stronger and certainly more selfless then Ben is. By conquering her fear of death in PG Buffy no longer allowed herself to be controlled by fear.

As for The Master's assertion that fear is a more powerful force in the human world then love...I'm not sure. I think Buffy may have proven this false in The Gift.

FIRST SLAYER: You are full of love. You love with all of your soul. It's brighter than the fire ... blinding. That's why you pull away from it.
BUFFY: (surprised) I'm full of love? I'm not losing it?
FIRST SLAYER: Only if you reject it. Love is pain, and the Slayer forges strength from pain. Love ... give ... forgive. Risk the pain. It is your nature. Love will bring you to your gift.

Buffy overcomes her fear of love and embraces it fully. It is through this love that Buffy is able to die peacefully and with only love-not fear-in her heart; love prevails in Buffy. This is, however, what makes Buffy a God-like figure at the end of The Gift. The Master calls fear the most powerful force in the human world, but when Buffy is standing on the tower she is not a part of the human world-she is a part of something more.


Angelus: "I'm not gonna get a bat-nose like that, huh? Am I?"
Master: "Very few vampires are cunning enough to have lived as long as I have - which you've now (The Master grabs Angelus by the front of his coat and throws him across the room) demonstrated."
Darla flinches as Angelus slides down the wall. Laughing, he gets back up, and keeps talking to Darla as if the Master wasn't even there.
Angelus: "Naples, you and me Darla. What do you say?"
The Master hits him with a hard right throwing him back against the wall.
Darla: "Angelus..."
Angelus just pushes himself off the wall and goes on as if nothing had happened: "This is no place for you - bound to the likes of him."
Master: "You should show (Master hits Angelus over the head, dropping him to the ground) the proper respect."
Angelus, now on all fours and breathing hard, still ignores the Master and talks only to Darla.
Angelus: "You belong by my side - out in the world - feeding as we like - taking what we need. I'll give you that view you crave, darling. I'll give you everything."
The Master knocks Angelus over onto his back. Angelus coughs than laughs again. Lifts his head to look at Darla.
Angelus: "Tell the truth - whose face do you want to look at for eternity? (Rolls over on his side) His - or mine?"
Master smiles down at Angelus: "You idiot. I *made* her."
Darla smiles at Angelus and he smiles back at her. The Master's smile fades and he turns to look at Darla.
Master: "You're leaving with the stallion, aren't you?"
Darla walks over to Angelus and helps him up. Angelus puts an arm around her shoulders and pulls her close and the two of them turn to leave. One of the Master's minions growls and blocks their path.
Master with his back to them: "No. Let them go. (He lets them pass) He won't last. I give it a century - tops."

The Master seems to have found a balance between allowing his emotions to rule him and denying them completely. This balance is demonstrated in the above scene in which The Master uses his anger to hurt Angelus, but does not let his emotions rule him. It is easy for emotions to completely rule a person since they have such a great deal of power. The Master can keep his anger under control and not let it dominate him to a point where he loses control over himself. Angelus: (narrates) It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion, maybe we'd know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow. Empty rooms, shuttered and dank... Without passion, we'd be truly dead.
~ Passion

Kendra: Emotions are weakness, Buffy. You shouldn't entertain dem.
Buffy: Kendra, my emotions give me power. They're total assets!

Buffy tells Kendra that emotions give her power. It seems that one of the reasons she is such a strong slayer is that Buffy uses her emotions to fuel her fighting; she has learned how to control her emotions and use them to her benefit. Love, hate, lust-they all give power and strength, and we have seen that when they are capitalized on they make their possessor stronger. There have several examples of this in the past. Buffy's love for Dawn gives her added strength to fight Glory. Faith's lust for the kill drives her. Angelus' hatred for Buffy making him feel human gives him focus. Willow becomes stronger after Glory hurts Tara.

While We're Discussing The Master's Age...:

Master: Hmm. (gets up) I am weary, and their deaths will bring me little joy.

After all those years you have to expect that The Master is pretty tired of everything, I mean he is stuck underground-not a lot of excitement there. All those years caught between the world of the living and the world of the dead. It is the hope of one day being free that keeps The Master going. Without this hope, IMO, The Master would most definitely have a death wish.

Master: Bring me something... young.

Maybe this desire for "something young" is an attempt to take the essence, the optimism, the energy, from the victim. After all, that's what a vampire does when they drink a person's blood- they take their life, their essence, their being.

II.About The Master and Vampires:

The Master may also be able to help us reveal some key information about the nature of vampires.

Vampire: How much human? How much animal?:

It seems that there are two components to a vampire: the human aspect(minus the soul) and the demon. In Through the Looking Glass we see that the demon aspect of the vampire isn't a malicious killer; it is a mindless animal that acts on impulse. The malicious killer is what is formed when the human that has lost its soul is given the super-natural abilities and the blood-thirsty impulses of the demon.

Darla: "The Master has grown past the curse of human features."
Angelus: "I'm not gonna get a bat-nose like that, huh? Am I?"
Master: "Very few vampires are cunning enough to have lived as long as I have - which you've now (The Master grabs Angelus by the front of his coat and throws him across the room) demonstrated."

The Master has lived so long that he no longer retains his physical human features. The Master has both lost some aspects of his humanity and embraced others. The Master has a need for control and power, in trying to obtain this power he represses his animal side and his desire to hunt.

The Master embraces the human ideas of order and government. We see this in The Wish, where The Master has devised a way to eliminate the hunting aspect of feeding. For many vampires it is not simply about needing the blood to stay alive; it is about the joy of the hunt and the satisfaction of the kill. The Master represses this desire for the hunt and replaces it with order.

In order to embrace order to obtain power The Master needs to repress his human emotions as much as he needs to repress his animal desires. Darla and Angelus both use killing as a means of obtaining revenge against what they hated about their mortal selves and their mortal lives. The Master is able to suppress this need for vengeance as well as some of his other human emotions in the quest for power.

The Role of the Sire:

Darla: "The* Master. He commands out order."
Master: "*The order of Aurelius. We are the select - the elite."

It seems to be insinuated that there is something in the blood line that makes these vampires stronger. Does this mean that a person's sire has an impact on their ferocity, strength, personality as a vampire?

Who was he?:

Who was The Master before he was "The Master"? We know it is the person the vampire was before s/he "died" that defines who their vampire self is. Unfortunately we know nothing about The Master before he was vamped. Why is he so bent on control, order, and power? Maybe as a human he had little power and his life was out of control? Who knows? Any guess would be purely speculation. It, of course, would help a lot, when analyzing any vampire to know about his/her human self, however, unfortunately we aren't so lucky when looking at The Master. My guess about why we know so little about The Master is that he is meant less as a character to be analyzed for who he is and more for the implications he has on the other characters as well as his symbolic role in the Buffyverse. Which leads us to...

III.Season 1 Big Bad/The Master and Prophecy Girl:

The Master is BtVS's first Big Bad. He is a less complex and morally ambiguous character than the Big Bads of later seasons, which is fitting for the shorter, introductory season. The Master doesn't have the emotional connection to Buffy that Angelus had, he doesn't have the temptation that Faith had, or the great moral dilemma associated with Glory. He instead is used by the writers as a tool to help develop the new characters, primarily our favorite hero: Buffy.

What exactly makes Buffy our favorite hero? We see her go through many tests and trials along her journey, and as we watch her struggle and eventually best the obstacles in her path we learn about Buffy as she learns about herself.

The Master serves to provide the first major trial, or the crossing of the first threshold as described by Campbell, we see Buffy overcome: her fear of death. As with all seasons to date the season one finale includes a battle with the season's Big Bad in which Buffy must learn about herself and grow as a person in order to accomplish her goal.

The Master plays a role in Prophecy Girl much like that of Glory in The Gift; he serves as a necessary figure in order to set up a situation that will help to define Buffy and the other Scoobies.

Prophecies In The Buffyverse:

GILES: Listen. Some prophecies are, are a bit dodgy. They're, they're mutable. Buffy herself has, has thwarted them time and time again, but this is the Codex. There is nothing in it that does not come to pass.
ANGEL: Then you're reading it wrong.
GILES: I wish to God I were! But it's very plain! Tomorrow night Buffy will face the Master, and she will die.
~Prophecy Girl

Are free will and prophecies mutually exclusive? Buffy makes her choice-she decides to fight The Master -it is a conscious decision in which she exercises free will. It is simply that her decision is foretold by someone who has the power to see into the future. This does not mean that Buffy has no choice in what she will do, only that someone already knows what choice she will make.

The idea of choice and its importance to self is part of existentialism. Choice is important to Buffy; it is her choices that define her. While BtVS includes prophecies and higher powers it also embraces the existential philosophy that people have control over their choices and that is what shapes them.

WHISTLER: Bottom line is, even if you see 'em coming, you're not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does. So what are we, helpless? Puppets? No. The big moments are gonna come. You can't help that. It's what you do afterwards that counts. That's when you find out who you are.

This speech explains to us that while we may not have control over events that happen in our lives, whether they are determined by a higher power or simply by chance, that we do have control over our choices, and these choices are what defines us as people.

FAITH: Oh yeah? Give me the speech again, please. Faith, we're still your friends. We can help you. It's not too late.
WILLOW: It's way too late. You know, it didn't have to be this way. But you made your choice. I know you had a tough life. I know that some people think you had a lot of bad breaks. Well, boo hoo! Poor you. You know, you had a lot more in your life than some people. I mean, you had friends in your life like Buffy. Now you have no one. You were a Slayer and now you're nothing. You're just a big selfish, worthless waste.

Again the idea that there *is* a choice. Buffy is the Slayer but she has a choice of how to deal with that. Faith turned her back on her duty and on good. Sure, Buffy was given a responsibility, but it was her choice to accept this burden and to give her life for the "good fight".

We see in The Wish that Buffy is once again killed by The Master, however the prophecy seems slightly altered. In PG there is a specific date, or at least specific circumstances that lead Giles to that date, when Buffy will be killed. However she dies at a different time in The Wish. So was the prophecy changed in this new reality? Did the prophesier see a different death for Buffy?

Slayer's Blood:

MASTER: You tried. It was noble of you. You heard the prophecy that I was about to break free and you came to stop me. But prophecies are tricky creatures. They don't tell you everything. (whispers) You're the one that sets me free! (gloats) If you hadn't come, I couldn't go. (whispers) Think about that!
Buffy is frozen with fear. The Master waits a moment longer and then bends down and bites her at the base of her neck. He drinks a few sips and lets her go.
MASTER: Oh, God! The power!
Buffy falls to her knees.
MASTER: And by the way...
She falls face down into the pool of water.
MASTER: I like your dress.
He steps over to the edge of his confines and pushes against the field. He forces his hand through, and his confines break down in a burst of light and energy. He starts up and out of his lair.
~Prophecy Girl

We learn that Slayer's blood has special properties and strength within it. This is further confirmed in GD1:

OZ: The only way to cure this thing is to drain the blood of a Slayer.

We also learn that blood seems to contain a person's essence or life.

SPIKE: 'Cause its always got to be blood.
XANDER: We're not actually discussing dinner right now.
SPIKE: Blood is life, lackbrain. Why do you think we eat it? It keeps you going. Makes you warm. Makes you hard. Makes you other than dead. (Quietly) Course it's her blood.
~The Gift

Blood contains what each individual is; therefore, since slayer's blood has powers in it, we can conclude the slayer is an essential part of Buffy, which is reaffirmed for us in The Replacement.

Buffy and The Master:

Cut outside. Buffy marches determinedly toward the school with Xander and Angel close behind.
XANDER: So, how do you know where the Master's going?
BUFFY: I know.
~Prophecy Girl

How exactly does Buffy know where The Master is? Does she now have a connection to him? Has she tapped into some more of her slayer powers following her death? Slayers and vampires seem to be connected, perhaps by origin (Dracula calls Buffy "kindred"). In WttH Giles tells Buffy that she should be able to sense a vampire's presence-is she beginning to develope this ability? A part of Buffy is now in The Master-maybe she can sense that.

Cut to the roof. Buffy slowly approaches the Master, apparently hypnotized. He grabs her by the throat again.
MASTER: Did you really think you could best me here when you couldn't below? (lets go of her neck)
BUFFY: (looks at him curiously) You have fruit punch mouth.
MASTER: What? She swings a wide hard punch to his mouth, and he falls down.
BUFFY: Save the hypnosis crap for the tourists.
~Prophecy Girl

The Master loses his power over Buffy, just as her fear does. She is set free. Buffy is mentally stronger, and thus cannot be hypnotized.

Buffy's Character Development In PG:

When Buffy first hears about the prophecy she quits, telling Giles she doesn't care if The Master rises. We see Buffy scared, paralyzed (understandably so) by her fear of death. Buffy puts aside her fears and is willing to sacrifice her life for the world. She accepts her duty as the Slayer and goes to fight The Master; as prophesied The Master kills Buffy who is revived shortly after by Xander.

Xander and Angel help Buffy up.
XANDER: Easy. Easy.
BUFFY: (standing now) The Master?
ANGEL: He's gone up.
Buffy starts to go.
XANDER: No. You're still weak.
BUFFY: (stops) No. No, I feel strong. I feel different. (looks back at them) Let's go!
~Prophecy Girl

Yes, I know this has been discussed to death. There are lot's of different meanings that this last line could have; on the most basic, not speculatory level Buffy is changed because she has overcome her fear. Buffy was able to give up her life for the world and was changed by doing so. Is Buffy still the slayer now? Is she something more? We really don't know. Perhaps if we are lucky one day Joss will explain it all.

After PG we have a better understanding of Buffy's character (as well as the character of Xander, Willow, Giles, and Angel), which is now immensely deeper than prior to this episode. We see Buffy's reaction to the prophecy and her actions after she returns to Sunnydale the previous season. She is just a girl, frightened and scared; we can relate to her. But at the same time we realize just how extraordinary Buffy is; she is selfless and brave. To quote what Dedalus wrote in his essay "The Mythology and Magic of Buffy the Vampire Slayer", "Buffy is not what we are, rather what-in our best moments-we strive to be."

At the end of Buffy's encounters with The Master our hero has developed and grown, and we have come to understand her better. Thus, The Master has accomplished what was perhaps his main purpose.

IV. The Symbolism of The Master:

As I discussed in the previous section The Master is used as a tool by the writers. Along with his use in character development and the hero's journey, The Master also serves as a symbolic figure the way many characters in BtVS do.

Part of the Adolescence Metaphor:

Joss himself has said many times that on one level Buffy is a metaphor for adolescence, and The Master plays an important role in this theme.

The Master can be seen as representing authority. He is powerful, and holds dominion over the vampires in his order. These vampires are afraid of The Master and his power and are willing to bow to The Master out of this dread Buffy is told what to do-it is written that she will die. It is through acceptance of what must be that Buffy can rise above this. The Master can be seen, as representing a societal force that trys to prevent a person from reaching her/his goals.

The Master is a loss of innocence for Buffy; one of the many that we will observe to coincide with the losses in a typical person's life. Buffy's death can be seen as the death of her child-self.


Traditional vampire tales often portray the victim being bitten as a symbol for rape. The Master biting Buffy can be viewed in the same way; Buffy's innocence is being stolen from her by The Master just as it was by her calling as the Slayer.


Well, that's pretty much it. Looking forward to hearing everyone's ideas and comments.


*All quotes from Psyche's Transcripts

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