Before young women were fighting over Delena and Stelena on The Vampire Diaries and before they were throwing down in honor of Rory's best boyfriend on Gilmore Girls, TV fans were declaring their allegiance to Buffy's boyfriends — Angel or Spike (no one cared about Riley, get real) — on The WB and UPN drama series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Friendships blossomed or were destroyed depending on which boyfriend you preferred with Sarah Michelle Gellar's titular slayer. But ultimately it doesn't matter if you're a Spuffy 'shipper or a diehard Bangel fan, because the show's best 'ship — romantic or otherwise — was actually Angel and Spike.
Don't believe us? Even creator Joss Whedon has pledged allegiance to it. Even if it was in jest, it's still true. Despite the romance and passion that accompanied Angel and Spike's respective relationships with Buffy, neither vampire was the right man for the slayer over the course of the show's seven-season run, but they were a guaranteed fun time when paired together.
In honor of Buffy's 20th anniversary on Friday, March 10, we're looking back and breaking down the most controversial of all love triangles.
Exhibit A: The Pure First Love, aka Buffy/Angel
For the first three seasons of Buffy, the brooding and heroic Angel (David Boreanaz) fulfilled the role of required love interest. He was the original vampire with a soul, a man haunted by his past and seeking redemption for the truly horrific acts he committed as the evil Angelus. There was one major flaw in Buffy and Angel's relationship, though: He was unable to be with Buffy on account a moment of true happiness would render him soulless at which time he would revert back to being a literal monster.
Angel turning evil was the overarching plot of the show's excellent second season, with Buffy eventually sending Angel to hell in order to save the world in the show's best episode, the two-part Season 2 finale "Becoming." Angel eventually returned to Sunnydale but their love story was never the same. Angel eventually ended up leaving for Los Angeles (and his own spin-off!) at the end of the show's third season.
Although the show would continue to dangle Bangel in front of fans, both on Angel and again at the end of Buffy when he arrived to deliver an amulet meant to be worn by a champion, it's hard to declare their's a truly successful relationship. They were deeply in love, sure, but love isn't always enough. Which leads us to...
Exhibit B: Dancing with the Redeemed Bad Boy, aka Buffy/Spike
Once Angel was spun off into his own series and the writers recognized that literally no one cared about Buffy's boring relationship with military operative and college TA Riley Finn (Marc Blucas), the writers turned their full attention to bad boy Spike (James Marsters).
Introduced as a villain in Season 2, Spike's journey over the course of the show led him to become an ally of the Scoobies, partly because he enjoyed the world and didn't want to see it destroyed, partly because he was in love with Buffy, and partly because a chip implanted in his head by the Initiative in Season 4 rendered him relatively harmless on account he was unable to kill humans without also experiencing extreme pain.
Although Buffy initially rebuffed Spike's advances, once she returned from heaven in Season 6, she embarked on a rather unhealthy but steamy relationship with the bleach blond vampire. Eventually, his love for the slayer would lead Spike down a true path of redemption when he willingly sought out his soul in an effort to be if not a good man, at least a better man man worthy of Buffy's love. Spike later sacrificed himself to save the world in the battle against the First Evil, at which time Buffy tearfully told him she loved him and he said, "No you don't, but thanks for saying it."
Which leads us to Angel and Spike
While it's true fans didn't get to experience the true glory of this particular relationship until Spike made the jump to Angel for its fifth and final season — despite being involved in a love triangle, Angel was already deeply entrenched in Los Angeles by the time Spike became a viable love interest on Buffy — the truth is the seeds for this reluctant immortal bromance were planted long before that, when Angel was still Angelus and Spike was a newly turned vamp.
After Drusilla, who had been sired by Angelus and thus felt a special connection to him, sired Spike in 1880, the two men butted heads over Spike's disregard for keeping a low profile and desire to embrace a shameless attitude toward vampiric violence. While Angelus was a true and sinister predator — he enjoyed the thrill of the hunt and inflicting emotional torture as much as the physical pain he brought to his victims — Spike got off on the heat of an epic physical battle. When Angel ultimately reverted back to his Angelus form during Buffy's second season, viewers were treated to front-row seats to this long-running and tense rivalry that provided as much drama as it did laughs.
The push and pull for Drusilla's attention and both men's need to be the alpha male led to Spike eventually allying with Buffy during her battle against Angelus and then bolting with an unconscious Dru. Because he skipped town and returned brokenhearted in Season 3, it wasn't until much later that Spike became a possible love interest and fans were once more treated to the great possibilities of Angel and Spike's relationship.
Their loathing for one another provided much-needed humor, which was on display at the end of Buffy's final season and throughout Angel's as well. The odd couple pairing was immensely satisfying on nearly every level but especially once they were forced into partnering to save the world. Of course, it helped that they were both in similar positions by that point. Both were vampires with souls but neither was actually in a relationship with the slayer, a development that was explored in a rather entertaining episode of Angel during its final season.
But here's the bottom line: Even if you removed Buffy from the equation, Angel and Spike were still guaranteed to be a good time. The fact that they didn't much like each other on the surface covered up the fact they were really very similar and should not preclude them from being named the greatest and most rewarding relationship in the entirety of the Buffyverse.
Plus, we have the fake buddy comedy movie trailer to prove it: