Probably the two most disliked characters in the entire Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer universe were Connor and Dawn, played by Vincent Kartheiser and Michelle Trachtenberg.
The opinions expressed here are that of the writer’s and may differ from those of other fans of Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
There have been discussions between fans of Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer over the years regarding the characters of Buffy’s sister Dawn and Angel’s son Connor and why these characters were so disliked. Hated and loathed are words often used when the subject of this characters are mentioned. But is this a justifiable response? And have the opinions of many changed over the years with re-viewing of both shows?
Both Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer featured main protagonists tasked with saving the world from the forces of evil. Buffy Summers was the Slayer “a young female bestowed with mystical powers that originate from the essence of a pure-demon, which gives her superhuman senses, strength, agility, resilience and speed in the fight against forces of darkness (Wikipedia).” Angel (Born Liam) was a former evil vampire named Angelus who after being cursed by gypsies who restored his soul, sort redemption for centuries of mayhem and murder by helping people. He was Dr. Jekyll struggling to keep his evil Mr. Hyde from resurfacing. In order to ensure Hyde was kept at bay, Angel couldn’t experience a moment of pure happiness. When Angel and Buffy meet, their chemistry was undeniable. They shared an forbidden love that would torture them. But saving the world was more important than matters of the heart, so Angel and Buffy sacrificed their happiness together.
Buffy stopped a few apocalypses at the time Dawn was introduced on the show. Buffy Summers had been the only child of Hank and Joyce Summers when presto…in Season 5 here’s an unseen and unmentioned little sister. Dawn had all the classic qualities of the annoying little sister. She was basically a whiny brat who constantly got in Buffy’s way. She was jealous of the attention Buffy got from being The Slayer. Dawn later found out she was a mystical ball of energy known as The Key. Monks forged The Key into a sister and sent it to live with The Slayer for protection from the God Glorifcus a.k.a Glory.
The mythology of vampires on Angel were they were demons. There was no way vampires could have children. The closest they ever came to expanding their family units were when they sired or turned humans into vampires. Like wolves, vampires tended to run in packs. Angelus’ pack was Darla, Spike and Drusilla. Darla was Angel’s sire. But she was more than that. In actuality, Darla was his mate. They shared the closest thing to a romance possible for vampires; they were a couple in every sense of the word. It was a surprise when Darla became pregnant with Angel’s child. Angel and Darla settled into the idea of becoming parents. They wanted to protect their son from all who threatened him. Darla shared her soul with the baby while she carried him and even sacrificed herself (she ran a stake through her heart) so he could be born.
Angel was a good father and loved his son. Unfortunately a false prophecy and an enemy from Angel’s past robbed Angel of the chance to raise his son. Daniel Holtz stole the vampire’s baby and jumped through a rift into the Hell dimension of Quor’toth.
When Connor returned from Quor’toth, he was now a feral teenage warrior known as The Destroyer. But the main thing he wanted to destroy was his vampire dad as Holtz filled him in on Angelus killing of Holtz’s family. Connor refused to believe Angel and Angelus were two separate entities. Lies and manipulations caused Connor to shift loyalties from Angel and the team to whomever was controlling him throughout Season 4.
Dawn and Connor are often viewed as the same character. And in a sense, they were. Both were confused as to what they were and their place in the world. Was she energy or human? Dawn lamented. Was he human or a demon? (“You’re the bastard son of two demons”– Holtz, “Benediction”) obsessed Connor. Both wanted to be heroes. At first scared, Dawn began to settle into the idea of being a Potential when she found out her possible slayer destiny in Season 7. Connor dreamed of being a Champion and helping to make the world a better place. He went along with Jasmine’s happy world order to be a part of something. Teenagers want to fit in and be accepted. Dawn and Connor were teenagers full of all the angst that comes with the territory. But fashion, makeup, prom dates and borrowing dad’s car were the least of their concerns. The Beast, The First, The Hellmouth and The Apocalypse occupied their thoughts.
I re-watched the entire series of both Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I paid particular attention to both the characters of Dawn and Connor in order to determine whether my opinion had changed since seeing the episodes during their original airings. I found between the two, I disliked Connor less even though actions he committed throughout Seasons 3 and 4 were worst then anything done by Dawn. I think part of the reason for me was because the manipulations of Connor by Holtz and Jasmine while she inhabited Cordelia’s body outweighed Dawn being made human and given a loving family. She grew up in suburbia, Connor grew up in a Hell dimension. I’m not excusing the things Connor did…he was a crazy little psychopath. But I believe his past and history gave his character more layers then Dawn. Like Angel seeking redemption from the crimes he committed as Angelus, Connor needed redemption from his crimes. His redemption came from Angel’s deal with Wolfram & Hart in Season 4 finale “Home.” Connor’s memories (and those of Team Angel) were re-written in order to give him a normal childhood and life. As Connor Reilly, he was a well adjusted young man. When his memories were restored, Connor balanced his strength and fighting skills with his sensitivity and intelligence. He fought by Angel’s side in the Series Finale “Not Fade Away.” And continued his heroic behavior in the comics.
It’s my opinion that Vincent Kartheiser and Michelle Trachtenberg’s acting had nothing to do with their characters’ fan reception. Watching their scenes without digging deeper into their motivation, yes…Dawn and Connor are extremely whiny and annoying. I’m not a fan of teen characters on television shows and usually find most of them annoying.
I don’t know how the character of Dawn could have been rewritten to make her well liked. But I feel the direction of Connor’s character could have been better if the writers had chosen to keep him on the path in his relationship with Angel we saw in Season 3 Episode 21 “Benediction.” Angel and Connor fought side by side against the vampires in the club, then had that cute little father son sparring session in the alley. I often wondered if this closeness had been explored, what would viewers thought of Connor? We’ll never know but it’s fascinating to speculate.
The writers of Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer created a world of rich characters that still serve as topics for discussions decades later.
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