Big bad is a term originally used by the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show to describe a major recurring adversary, usually the chief villain in a particular broadcast season. It was originally used by Buffy in the episode "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered", in which she describes the newly soulless Angel as "the big bad thing in the dark". The phrase may originate in various fairy tales (particularly "3 Little Pigs" and the related song) about the "big bad wolf". It has also been expanded as "Big Bad Evil Guy" (abbreviated as BBEG). It is first used on screen in the simpler "Big Bad" form in Season 3, in the episode "Gingerbread" where Buffy says that an occult symbol is harmless, "not a big bad".
For the spin-off Angel, the law firm Wolfram & Hart was the Big Bad present in the series; however, there were other major recurring threats that arose. While the format of the series didn't stick to an established Big Bad the way Buffy did, several characters and elements have represented significant season arcs, using the "Big Bad" term frequently.
The term has been later used in other fandoms, such as Charmed and Smallville to denote the annual villain. The short-lived series Birds of Prey actually used the term "Big Bad" on screen to refer to Harley Quinn. Other series such as Supernatural have played upon this collocation, referring to The Demon as "something Big and Bad". The final scene of Stargate: The Ark of Truth featured Lt Col Cameron Mitchell stating that it was strange not to have a "big bad" to face any more following the removal of both the Ori and Go'uld threats. In the May 11 2007 Lost podcast, the show's producers refer to Ben Linus as the series' "Big Bad", although they have subsequently revealed, and demonstrated, that Charles Widmore is even worse. Even comics have adopted the term into their lexicon, with Nightwing describing Bruno Mannheim to Batwoman as "the Big Bad" in DC Comics' 52: Week 30. Similarly, in Veronica Mars, there is a Big Mystery revolving around a crime perpetrated by the Big Bad of the season. Greg Weisman, an admitted fan of Joss Whedon, described Demona as a "Big Bad" in issue three of the Gargoyles comic book.
The following is a list of "Big Bads" in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
In the Season 3 episode "The Wish", Cordelia wishes that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale. The wish is granted by Anyanka, reverting Sunnydale to an alternate reality in which the Master is not only still alive, but rules over the entire town, allowing vampires to freely roam the streets at night (including Xander and Willow, who had been turned at an unknown point prior to this, and who end up killing Cordelia in this reality). Giles, however, leads a small Scooby-esque group of students in "slaying" (known as "white hats"), but is not Buffy's Watcher, since she does not reside in Sunnydale (she is stationed in Cleveland with an unnamed Watcher). The Master creates a plan in which blood from victims is machine-drained via mass production, citing increased efficiency. Giles, however, had Buffy brought into Sunnydale to stop the Master's plans. By the time Giles figures out how to reverse the effects of Cordelia's wish--by breaking Anyanka's amulet--and actually does it, the Master had broken Buffy's neck, still fulfilling the prophecy.
Spike comes to Sunnydale in the episode School Hard, accompanied by his longtime love Drusilla. Drusilla, in a weakened and frail condition, is cared for by Spike who hopes that the Hellmouth's energy will help to restore Drusilla's strength and health. They are soon reunited with Angel but constantly refer to him as Angelus (Angel's evil "alter ego", so to speak).
Angelus was cursed with his soul a century before the events leading up to Season 2, but with one major stipulation: should Angelus (known as "Angel" when ensouled) experience even one single moment of absolute happiness, when he's not thinking at all about the horrible actions he perpetrated as Angelus, the curse would be lifted, the soul removed, and Angelus would return. While a recurring character in Season 1 as Buffy's love interest, things take a turn for the worse in the Season 2 episodes "Surprise" and "Innocence", in which Buffy and Angel have sex. Angel experiences perfect happiness, and his soul escapes his body, resulting in his transformation back to Angelus. He finds Spike and Drusilla in their warehouse headquarters and joins forces with them in their effort to destroy the Slayer.
Angelus reveals himself as even more coldhearted than most vampires, enjoying playing elaborate mind games with his prey and destroying their spirit before eventually killing or siring them. He seems to have an extra yearning to torment Buffy, seeing as how she "made [him] feel like a human being", which he considers to be an unpardonable sin. His trademark is drawing pictures of his latest target; the most notable of which is the one of Jenny, which he leaves in Giles' bedroom, along with her corpse.
In the two-part Season 2 finale, "Becoming" (Part 1 and Part 2), Angelus' ultimate plan comes into view: by removing the sword from the Acathla statue, a portal to Hell will open up, sucking our world into it; only with Angel's blood can it be closed. After being double-crossed by Spike, Angelus removes the sword. After a sword fight with Buffy, Willow (who Drusilla and some lesser vampires injured and put in the hospital) uses a spell to return Angel's soul. Even though Angel has returned, the gateway to Hell opens up. Buffy drives her sword into Angel's gut, sending him into the portal, closing it.
Angel would return in the next season of Buffy, and the character would get a spin-off show immediately afterward (in which Angelus would return several times in flashbacks, as well as being released in Season Four).
During the course of Season 3, he enlists the services of his vampiric associate Mr. Trick. After Trick is killed by Faith, Faith joins forces with him, essentially turning double-agent against Buffy. Wilkins develops a loving father/daughter-type relationship with Faith, something Faith has desperately wanted and needed her entire life. When Buffy puts Faith in a comatose state after a fight in "Graduation Day, Part One", the Mayor is devastated. In "Graduation Day, Part Two", during a speech he is giving at the Sunnydale High graduation of the Class of 1999, his Ascension goes into full effect, transforming him into Olvikan (who eats Principal Snyder shortly afterward). The Scoobies are ready for him, however; after plotting and strategizing with the entire student body (essentially turning them into a Scooby Army), Buffy lures him into the school library, which is fortified with TNT. Buffy manages to escape and cue Giles, who obliterates the school, along with the Mayor inside.
Just before the Ascension, however, he leaves a videotaped recording for Faith, in the event of her waking. He also leaves her a device that allows her to switch bodies with Buffy in the Season 4 episode "This Year's Girl".
After being completed, Adam promptly kills Professor Walsh and immediately sets forth a plan of action--by summoning demons and putting them out in the open, The Initiative will imprison them. Once the prisons are full enough, he will override the security systems, freeing them all and enforcing a battle between the demons and Initiative soldiers. From the bodies produced by the impending slaughter of both sides, he plans to create more cyborgs such as himself and build the ultimate army. Even though the battle takes place, Adam is killed by Buffy in "Primeval" by having his power source removed from his body.
In the Season 4 finale, "Restless", Adam appears in Buffy's dream in his original human form. When asked about his real name, he replies, "Before "Adam"? Not a man among us can remember."
Adam appears one more time in the Season 7 premiere, "Lessons", as an incarnation of The First.
Unbeknownst to Glory, The Key is in the form of Dawn Summers, Buffy's younger sister who was created (not born) specifically for the purpose of hiding The Key; since Buffy is the Slayer and thus would make for a strong protector, an order of monks created Dawn and implanted false memories in everybody she would have ever met. This may be a jibe on the concept of retcons, in which facts about a person (such as the number of siblings) are changed retroactively to conform to new plot elements.
Once Glory finds out that The Key is in human form, she deduces that it's someone close to the Slayer, and someone new to the fold. She reasons, however, that The Key is actually Tara, who the Scoobies only met a year prior. She captures Tara and realizes that she isn't The Key, so she feeds off of Tara's brain energies, making Tara insane. Those who are insane are 'outside reality', allowing them to see and recognize the key in its true form despite the monk's protective magic and it's new form as Dawn. When Glory attacks in "Spiral", Tara unwittingly points Dawn out. As soon as this happens, the Scoobies take Dawn, and flee Sunnydale using a Winnebago stolen by Spike .
When Giles is wounded at the hands of the Knights of Byzantium, Buffy calls Ben and asks him to come fix him up (still not knowing that he and Glory are in fact the same entity). After fixing Giles up, Ben turns into Glory right in front of the group. She grabs Dawn and takes her to a tower that the rest of the people she has fed from have built. This tower is where she calculates the opening to her dimension to be, but the opportunity to use The Key is a small window and isn't for another few days. Ben later appears and tries to help Dawn escape but reconsiders when Glory promises to make Ben immortal on her return to her rightful divine state. Ben, who has lived his whole life knowing he would cease to exist (not merely die) should Glory regain her power, accepts this offer and betrays Dawn.
A few days later, as the opening is being prepared, Buffy shows up and Glory fights her. After a well-placed kick, however, she knocks off "her" head and reveals wiring - it's actually the Buffybot that Spike had ordered built as a sex toy but was reprogrammed by Willow. The real Buffy appears behind her and bloodies Glory as the ritual starts. Downed but not dead, Glory reverts back to Ben, whom Giles kills, thus killing Glory in the process.
Glory appears once more in the Season 7 premiere "Lessons" as an incarnation of The First.
The Trio is a band of nerds who, over a rousing game of Dungeons & Dragons, decide to take over Sunnydale. Recognizing Buffy as their biggest threat to their schemes, they attempt to keep her out of their hair and in the process get her seriously annoyed. Things get out of control, however, when after a failed attempt at turning Warren's ex-girlfriend Katrina into their 'willing' love slave, Warren accidentally kills her as she tries to escape and inform the police. While Jonathan and Andrew want to turn themselves in, Warren insists on using magic to make Buffy think that she killed Katrina. This deception is eventually seen through, but not before Buffy nearly turns herself in for murder. This takes the three characters into separate character paths--Warren becomes misogynistic and assumes the role of leader of the Trio, Jonathan lets his conscience take over and grows in disdain for Warren, and Andrew becomes increasingly loyal to Warren. The Trio plan a series of bank heists using powerful artifacts that grant immense strength and invulnerability. Unknown to Jonathan, Warren and Andrew planned to escape leaving him to be arrested. In the end however, after a confrontation with Buffy, Andrew and Jonathan are sent to jail while Warren escapes.
Warren acquires a gun and shoots Buffy, with a stray bullet hitting Tara, killing her almost instantly. Willow, who has been recovering from an addiction to dark magic, tries to resurrect Tara as she did Buffy but cannot due to the fact that it was not a mystical death. In her searching for vengeance Willow resumes using magic and quickly begins to lose herself in the dark power. After discovering that he didn't kill the Slayer, Warren attempts to escape but is soon flayed alive by Dark Willow.
After Warren's death, Willow goes after the two remaining members of the Trio, but Buffy, Xander and Anya break them out of jail. Later, Dawn convinces Clem to take her to Rack, a warlock who acts as sort of a "dealer" of dark magic. However, Willow is already there, having killed Rack and absorbed his power. At this point she is so lost to dark magic that she nearly returns Dawn to her form as the Key before Buffy arrives. When she and Buffy get face-to-face, she magically transports them to the Magic Box, where they start to fight. However, right in the middle, Giles appears, returning from England. She sends a fireball into the air to track Andrew and Jonathan and distract Buffy while she and Giles--who is channeling power from a British coven--begin an epic fight. Though he manages to injure and delay her, Giles is defeated. While Giles lies on the ground bloody and dying, Willow sucks the magical power out of him. However, this was in fact Giles' plan: the magic he was channeling was not the dark power Willow had been drawing on, but a kind of magic that comes from humanity. This infusion of light magic allowed Willow to feel again, and expanded her empathy so she could feel the emotions of practically everyone. However this seemed to backfire, as in her grief and depression she decides to destroy the world to put an end to suffering.
Meanwhile, Buffy arrives just in time to save Andrew and Jonathan from being killed by the fireball, throwing them out of the way, but the proximity of the blast threw Xander into a mausoleum, rendering him unconscious. It also created a sinkhole into the tunnels under Sunnydale that Buffy and Dawn fall into. Jonathan and Andrew, who were knocked just out of range and are not be harmed, decide to flee to Mexico.
On a bluff on the other side of Sunnydale, Willow uses her magic to raise an ancient satanic temple from the ground and begins chanting, but Xander arrives and, after overhearing Anya talk to Buffy, decides to try and trigger her emotions. Even though Willow keeps knocking him down, Xander repeatedly tells her that he loves her. Eventually, the emotion in Willow is too much and the dark magical power in her fades away as she and Xander break down in tears, embracing.
Since The First is non-corporeal, it can't be killed. But since it can't touch anything, it can't kill, at least directly. When Buffy was brought back from the dead at the beginning of Season 6, however, this caused an instability in the source of the Slayer's power. This created the opportunity for the first to attempt to destroy the Slayer Line in its entirety. It enlisted the services of Caleb, a misogynistic preacher, who commanded the Bringer army--Harbingers who were ordered to kill those who were in line to become the next Slayers, should the current ones die. It was part of a master plan that, if successful, would solidify The First as a physical entity. By working backwards, killing all the potential Slayers, followed by the current Slayer, nothing would exist to stop The First from flooding the world with an army of Turok-Han, a Neanderthalistic breed of supervampires (known in the series as übervamps), shifting the scale of the world irrevocably in favor of evil and making The First corporeally manifest.
To do this, however, the Hellmouth had to be opened. Buffy and an army of potential Slayers used their blood to open the Seal of Danzalthar, thus opening the Hellmouth. After an epic battle between the Turok-Han and the Potentials/Scoobies, the Turok-Han were defeated (though not without casualties) by a special amulet given to Spike by Buffy, by way of Angel, channelled the power of sunlight and killed the entire Turok-Han army. The amulet also acted as a purifying force, powerful enough that it closed the Hellmouth. This caused all of Sunnydale to collapse into a massive sinkhole. Though The First was not destroyed, its plans were thwarted and without the Hellmouth it was unable to raise a demon army.