Darla: The Matriarch
Darla exists in a world of heroes, but she isn’t one. Whether she’s
a ghost, a morally challenged human, or a ruthless demon, she’s not
defined by her state of being.
She’s the matriarch, who doesn’t create life without bringing death.
She’s the seductress, using her beauty to get power and control, while showing that she is strong in and of herself.
And, ultimately, she’s a hell of a lot more.
she comes into AtS in s2, she’s the first woman to be intimate with
Angel post-Buffy, and as Riley showed us with Buffy on BtVS, that’s not
an easy role to fill. In addition, she’s what drives Angel dark and
causes the split between him and the other members of Angel
Investigations. If that isn’t enough to make even a forgiving audience
dislike her, Darla needed to be a character who could believably keep
Angelus fascinated for 150 years, and the plot called for the audience
to feel sympathy for a woman who was dying after having already lived
It would have been easy for us to dislike her, and
with a less talented actress, that would have been the logical result.
However, Julie Benz is incredible and manages to turn Darla into
someone that we can care about and sympathize with.
Darla might not be a hero, and the Buffyverse would be a lesser world without her in it.Human Darla: Take One
first and only time we see human Darla pre-vamping is in a too brief
scene where she’s on her deathbed, and this remains one of my favorite
Darla moments. The Master (and boy do I feel dumb writing that *g*) is
speaking to Darla and says that she is “a woman of some property. No
husband. No inheritance.” How does Darla answer? “I’m a whore.”
apologies. No softening of the facts. No protestations. She is what she
is, and even though she believes The Master to be priest at this point,
she’s not going to apologize for what she’s done.
In fact, as
the scene goes on, The Master tells Darla that her life would have been
better if she’d visited a priest to which Darla replies, “and you
should have paid me a visit before today, father. Your life may have
been more interesting because of it.”
She knows she’s dying. She knows that this is her last day on this earth, and she’s still so spirited, so unapologetic
when it comes to her life and her decisions.
not willing to beg for God’s mercy, and flat out says that he’s never
done anything for her, and she accepts her place in Hell. She shows
strength and a kind of blasphemous flippancy that’s particularly
captivating considering the fact that it’s 1609.
From the very beginning, Darla was a woman who wanted to live life on her own terms. What we once were informs all that we have become. -- Darla, “The Prodigal”
things we know about Darla’s life as a vampire: she likes Brahms,
Chopin, Botticelli, Angelus, sex, massacres, and rooms with a view.
she primarily lived underground with The Master pre-Angelus, she loves
fine dresses and the human world. She’s decadent, a sensualist, and
once Angelus is in the picture and tells her he’ll “give her
everything,” she’s quick to leave The Master.
Her and Angelus
“stay in the best hotels, order room service, eat the waiters.” And
while she doesn’t have Angelus’ kink for complicated mind games (i.e.
breaking Drusilla and turning her so the pain is eternal), she does use
her beauty to seduce others into giving her what she wants. Whether
it’s The Master (s1 BtVS), Lindsey (s2 AtS), Angel(us), or her food
(“Welcome to the Hellmouth”), Darla is quite capable of bending the
wills of the men around her.
She carries what she learned in her
human life – men have the power, but she has the ability to manipulate
men – with her. She seduces men, and she uses them to her advantage.
Ultimately, I believe there are two “keys” to Darla’s personality.
she’s a survivor. Yes, I realize that she’s died more times than Giles
has polished his glasses, but she also lived for a long time, and she
doesn’t take a passive
role when it comes to her life. When
Angelus gets his soul, Darla eventually ends up back with The Master,
hedging her bets (s1 BtVS). The chances of him rising and taking over
were good, and Darla wanted to be on the winning team.
is also the one who’s willing to leave Angelus to die to save herself
(barn scene from “The Trial”). Darla is the person who, when she
realizes she’s going to die, doesn’t just accept her fate, but she goes
out trying to find someone to vamp her (“Darla” & “The Trial”).
This, of course, feeds into the other thing that I see driving her as a
Darla likes control.
It isn’t the overt
control that others try to have; it’s subtler. She doesn’t like to be
subject to the whims of those who surround her. She wants things on her
In the episode “Darla”, we learn that Angel went back
to her after getting his soul, trying to get her to take him back. We
can see that she wants him back, that she misses what they had
together, but she doesn’t just pull him into the fold. She wants him to
prove himself, and she’s not about to let him stay if he’s not going to
play by her rules.
Even as a human, Darla leaves Wolfram &
Hart and is willing to live on her own in a crappy hotel room. She’s
more than capable of taking care of herself, and she doesn’t like being
a puppet. She hates being manipulated, and when she is turned again,
she leaves “a fifteen-body-memo to that effect.”
In addition to
the fact that Darla is once again being influenced by a soul, it’s that
need for control and to have her own destiny that makes her mystical
pregnancy so loathsome to her. No one can explain how or why she’s
pregnant, and once again, there are forces greater than her ruling her
life. Still, she doesn’t just accept
. She goes searching for a
way to rid herself of the pregnancy, and it’s not until she’s
completely without options that she chooses to accept, to let Connor’s
soul influence her and starts to feel for the child inside her.Season 3 & Season 4 Darla: The Darla/Connor connection
soul and what it does is never fully defined, but we do know that it
doesn’t carry the personality of the vampire. Darla still carries many
of the same characteristics from her human life into her vampire one;
Harmony doesn’t undergo any obvious changes, etc.
What the soul
does seem to do is connect a being with humanity. It doesn’t
necessarily give humans an understanding of right and wrong since there
are human beings in our society that don’t have that even with their
souls. No, it seems to tie people to each other. The soul gives humans
being the ability to connect and to love without stipulations (not
saying people do, but the ability is there). It gives humans a reason
to not kill each other, and moreover, the soul functions as Freud’s
ego, allowing the moral or ethical code of society (superego) to
override our basic instincts (Id).
In s3 AtS, Darla is
influenced by Connor’s soul, and she loves her son. This was the one
thing I found it hard to understand given Darla’s history and the fact
that she’s not a woman (or woman-pire ;)) given to sentimentality.
However, I think the one thing that is obvious is that pre-Connor Darla
has never loved someone as much as herself.
She might have cared
for Angelus when she was a vampire, and she might have loved him as a
human, but her human upbringing and her vampire life made her
self-reliant. She wasn’t willing to make herself weak for anyone, and
people were only around until they were no longer useful or amusing.
The only one that comes even close to being an exception is Angel. Her
feelings for him after coming back to life drive her to continually go
after him and show her weak spots even though she tried to hide them.
Still, she does want him under specific conditions. Soulless.
on the other hand, is a physical manifestation of both Darla and Angel,
and with his soul to influence her, she’s able to love him, to see
herself and Angel(us) in the unborn baby. The two people whom she cares
about the most came together to create him, and as Darla tells Angelus
in “Lullaby”, “I wanna say I'm sorry. I wanna say it and mean it, but I
can't... This child... Angel, it's the one good thing we ever did
together. The only good thing.”
This soul, not yet as jaded as
her own, allows her to feel love, but she doesn’t regret her life. As
wrong as her actions as a vampire were, she can’t say that she regrets
the life she lived, which was full of passion, the relationship she had
with Angel(us), or their unborn son.
The thing is, when you look
back at what Darla’s life was like as a human, or what we can
extrapolate given the brief scene, we see someone who was born in a
time when women didn’t have a lot of options. The fact that Darla is a
prostitute who is dying so young means that she wasn’t really given the
opportunity to experience life (at least, not with a soul). This child
has that chance and that opportunity. Angel loves the child already,
and if there’s one thing Darla does know, it’s that Angel protects what
It’s this same reasoning that feeds into Darla’s
behavior in season 4. If we take it as a given that the Darla that goes
to Connor in s4 is the real
Darla (there are excellent
arguments for and against that), the same things still hold true. Darla
tells Connor, “I'd never felt so close to any living thing as I did to
my beautiful boy [Connor].”
She feels connected to Connor, like
they are a part of one another. Connor is opportunity and as close as
she’ll ever come to having a second chance. She sacrificed herself for
him, and she wants him to prove that he’s worth it. She wants him to
redeem her, because, unlike the spirited human girl that was dying of
syphilis, Darla knows more of the world. She wants to be have created
something that wasn’t tainted, so her existence isn’t defined solely by
death and destruction.
Unfortunately, Darla is unable to save
Connor, and it’s not until s5 that we get to see what a Connor who’s
undamaged by Quor-Toth can be. Still, Darla’s presence, her actions,
and her influence are felt in AtS long after her death.