Oooooh, yessssss. Villains. When Buffy does them well, it does them very, very well. And it doesn’t get any better than Season Three’s Mayor Wilkins. Sorry, Glory. You definitely were a contender, though.
Harry Groener brings his A-game throughout the whole season, effortlessly switching between a 1950s-ish, father-knows-best persona to a sinister evil sorcerer hellbent on transforming into a giant snake demon. The brilliance of it, though, is that he is 100% convincing as both, and you never get the feeling that the character is pretending either way: he is a paradox, one that is comfortable loving his surrogate daughter (Faith) at the same time wanting to bring about the end of the world by ascending into demonhood. It’s fascinating to witness, especially upon repeat viewings.
In the same way that Faith mirrors Buffy throughout the third season, Mayor Wilkins mirrors Giles. They both have a violent streak that rears its head when someone they care about is harmed in any way, and they are extremely paternal to their respective Slayers. The anguish on the Mayor’s face as he mourns Faith’s injuries actually gets you to feel for him in the same way you feel for Giles when he beats the absolute shit out of Ethan Rayne (RIP Robin Sachs) for putting Buffy in danger. The Watcher’s Council view Giles’ fatherly love for Buffy as a weakness, and Wilkins’ love for Faith truly is his downfall, causing him to lose all of his senses and fall for a pretty simple trick.
What’s truly sad about the Mayor is that the writing crew kind of peaked with the character. Other than hell-god Glory from the fifth season, the other Big Bads are lackluster at best. The Initiative and Adam were piss-poor follow-ups, and the Season Six’s the Trio was … well, not as bad as I remembered, but nowhere near the absolute perfection that was the Mayor. And we all remember the First, which … well, I will talk about the first later on this month.
On that note, I’m going to go watch “Graduation, Part One and Two” and then head to bed. And you should, too!