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ghoststar
09-12-18, 01:17 AM
In “Welcome to the Hellmouth,” Giles tells Buffy that, as a Slayer, she possesses senses which should enable her to identify a vampire among hundreds of humans. Later episodes demonstrate that Giles was not referring to enhancements of her humans senses. Her senses are perhaps more acute than average (suggested by her ability to aim at a distance, e.g., when striking Spike with a censer in “What’s My Line, Part 2″), but not comparable to those of vampires: In “Chosen,” she asks Spike, “Has anyone ever told you that the whole vampire smelling thing is kind of gross?” (Emphasis added.) “Get It Done” shows that her non-human abilities come from the heart of a demon, which was merged with a human girl in prehistory to create the Slayer line.

Unlike Buffy, vampires have supernaturally acute versions of at least some “human” senses. Jesse “can hear the worms in the Earth” (”Welcome to the Hellmouth”), Angel can smell the sunrise (perhaps by the scents that radiation releases from plant matter? It’s never explained; “Amends”); in “School Hard,” Spike scents “the blood of a nice… ripe… girl” when pursuing Buffy (whose purse had previously been shown to contain a tampon, and who has no obvious scratches) through Sunnydale High; and, late in the series, Spike is still able to track Buffy, by smell, from her home to the building where she’s squatting in an unfamiliar part of town (”Touched”). Whether or not vampires have any purely supernatural senses is not a question explicitly answered; nonetheless, I believe that they do share at least some of them, that it works similarly to the Slayer’s senses, that an unusually strong development of these senses is largely responsible for Spike’s martial prowess, and that, moreover, the similarities between vampiric and Slayer senses point to a link between the origin of the first Slayer and that of the first vampire.

The Slayer’s powers come from a demon, and demons’ senses work in many ways. She can locate vampires, but her ability to sense other kinds of demons is hit-or-miss (compare her obliviousness in “Bad Eggs” with her awareness in “Living Conditions”), and she also experiences occasional premonitions (”Welcome to the Hellmouth”; “Surprise”: “Beneath You”). Under unusual circumstances, she forms telepathic connections with not only fellow Slayer Faith (”Graduation Day, Part 2″), but with Slayers who have been dead for thousands of years (”Restless”). Other demons have different sensory abilities: A demon encountered in “Earshot” uses telepathy during combat, and vengeance demons can be summoned by the distress of their chosen class of humans (”The Wish”; “Older and Far Away”).

Vampires do not, as a rule, have visions of the future (Drusilla, the obvious exception, was a seer before being turned; see “Becoming, Part 1″), nor can they read people’s minds (although they do benefit from having unreadable minds themselves). However, I believe that they have a narrow, yet strong, ability to sense the presence of fellow predators– in this case, other vampires and dangerous demons.

When vampires are hunting for food, enhanced human abilities, such as smell and hearing, generally suffice. They can track their human prey with those senses; for the most part, they don’t need to be on high alert around humans. By contrast, other demons, including fellow vampires outside their own packs, pose a threat, sometimes direct, sometimes as competitors for limited food resources.

This is, of course, a common phenomenon among real-life animals. Those who have had domestic cats have probably witnessed the cats’ hostility toward strange cats on their turf. In Jane Goodall’s Reason for Hope, she discusses chimpanzee patterns of violence resembling human warfare, including the torture of captured enemies as well as simple killing. Humans have long fought over resources, as well. From the foraging bands described by Lawrence Keeley in War Before Civilization to the United States’s 19th-century Western expansion, people have frequently killed, and still kill, to take other people’s land and to protect their own.

It would certainly serve BtVS’s demons well if they could locate interlopers, and the evidence suggests that they can. Indeed, they may be better at detecting fellow vampires than they are at tracking humans.

Spike is case in point. He has an enviable record of combat success, having killed two Slayers when he arrives in Sunnydale and defeating the Anointed One’s guards twice in “School Hard” alone. Despite this, we repeatedly see that he is not especially strong for a vampire, and may even be less strong than some “ordinary” humans. He himself acknowledges that psychological factors allowed him to defeat the past Slayers (”Fool for Love”), is easily shoved down by Angel in a head-on confrontation, and proves unable to move a trollhammer that a human strongman could probably lift (”Blood Ties”).

And as for his fights in “School Hard”? In both cases, he defeats the Aurelians by landing precise strikes without looking when they attack him from behind. It’s a reasonable bet that the Anointed One’s bodyguards are strong, seasoned fighters, but they don’t expect his level of sensitivity to their locations. By contrast, in the same episode, Joyce, an untrained and essentially powerless human, successfully sneaks up behind him and strikes a hard blow to his head with an ax, and he never “sees” it coming.

That all these events happen in the same episode seems like more than coincidence. Spike can smell, hear, and see humans fine– better than fine–, but they don’t “ping” as threats in his mind, and he doesn’t have any special, nonhuman senses with which to detect them. (In a similar example from “Wild at Heart,” human soldiers from the Initiative manage to incapacitate him with a stun gun and kidnap him.) What he does have is an extraordinary ability to sense the precise locations of preternatural rivals.

It would be strange if Spike were the only vampire to have this ability, rather than simply one whose ability was unusually strong. Angel makes clear that other vampires share it, albeit to a smaller degree. In “City of…”, Angel detects fellow vampires in a bar and follows them outside to fight them. Although the scene is brief and mostly used to establish Angel’s motivations, it demonstrates his capacity to identify vampires among humans. However, he seems to rely more heavily on his “ordinary” senses to determine their precise locations in the fight.

The vampires’ ability to sense one another raises a question about the Slayer: How closely related was the demon thats heart was merged with Sineya (”Get It Done”) to the demon that mixed its essence with humans to create the first vampire (”The Harvest”)? Both demons clearly bore a capacity to recognize their own kind, and, just as significantly, could be merged with humans. (While all demons are now “impure” in some way, it’s not stated that they are all blended with humans, rather than infected by some sort of energy that suffuses the mortal world.) Obviously, the Slayer and vampires are different creations, but that may be more a result of the merging process than of the component species. We see a purer form of the vampire demon in Angel’s “Through the Looking Glass” and “There’s No Place Like Plrtz Glrb”; we don’t know what its heart would look like. We can definitively say that the heart is one of a vampire’s most vulnerable organs, and that the heart also bore the demonic essence in the ceremony that produced the First Slayer.

If I’m correct, then the Slayer and many (possibly not all– more on that later) vampires share descent from either the same vampire species or from a closely related one. There is, of course, an argument to be made against this: That the first vampire originated when the last pure demon mixed his blood with that of a human, meaning that, if the ceremonial heart came from a pure demon, the vampire Slayer would have to predate vampires. Maybe it was an impure demon, but, if the first Watchers used its heart and the Watchers recorded the fall of pure demons, then it stands to reason that pure members of the species still existed at the time. That’s why I think that, to be very precise, the Slayer’s demon was not that which fills most vampires, but the one which animates the Turok-Han.

Turok-Han are to “ordinary” vampires what Neanderthals are to humans: Closely related species, presumably, in the vampires’ case, on the demon side of the family (”Bring on the Night”). The Watchers believed, inaccurately as it turns out, that they had died out long ago– perhaps before their “cousin” demons. Turok-han are stronger than more familiar vampires, and perhaps more primal, showing no ability to speak. Under certain conditions, this is also true of the Slayer. As Sineya says through dream!Tara in “Restless”:


“I have no name, no speech. I live in the action of death. Destruction. Absolute. Alone.”