For many years I contemplated naming my first born “Winifred Willow.” True story. So when the Vampire-Who-Outbroods-the-Broodiest, Angel, received his own spin-off series I was, well, for lack of a better term, fangirling to the max.
In the second season, Angel enters the demon dimension Pylea and rescues one super-scientist named Winifred “Fred” Burkle, a character who was quickly welcomed into the hearts of the Whedon fandom. In the final season of Angel, Fred meets her demise when she accidentally inhales the parasitic presence of Illyria, transforming the beloved quirky scientist into an ancient pure-breed demon known as one of the ‘Old Ones.’
You would presume to speak her name?
She is Illyria, the Old One. Foolish mortals have referred to her as “the Leather Queen”or “Blue Thunder” or even a “Smurf.”
Illyria has superhuman strength and agility, as well as invulnerability and immortality. Being one of the most powerful (and feared) of the Old Ones, Illyria can also manipulate time and is capable of interdimensional travel. She’s also very, very capable with a blade.
I lived seven lives at once. I was the power in the ecstasy of death. I was god to a god.
When the world met her, it shuddered, it groaned. It knelt at her feet:
Illyria was a ruling Old One in the Primordium Age. Her citadel, Vahla ha’nesh was located in what is currently Los Angeles. Although she was eventually murdered by her many rivals, she had a firm following (a cult, if you will) into the present day. It was one of these followers who freed Illyria’s sarcophagus from The Deeper Well and delivered it to Fred’s lab.
In my time, nightmares walked among us. Walked and danced, skewering victims in plain sight, laying their fears and worst desires out for everyone to see. This to make us laugh.
Once Illyria resurrected, she returned to her temple (which she’d hidden in another dimension) and attempted to raise her army and regain her throne. When she entered her temple, however, she discovered that her army had long since been destroyed. Trapped in a world she didn’t understand, she relied on Team Angel to orient her to a modern society, and was neutral throughout most of her time on the show. In the end, after being beaten and humiliated by the Senior Partners of Wolfram & Hart, she joined Angel in the final battle, particularly motivated by the death of Wesley.
The character of Illyria also appears in the expanded Buffyverse comics.
Illyria was not one of the “Big Bads” of the Angel series, but her arrival did mean the death of Fred, and that was enough to cast her as a villain in the eyes of many fans.
I had a difficult time choosing which scene of Illyria’s was my favorite. Although I loved Fred, Illyria brought was ancient and terrifying and bad ass. She’s older than all of Team Angel combined, and the scene where she awakens in Fred’s body–so dismissive and regal–gives me chills every time I watch it. “This will do,” she says–as if she were trying on a pair of jeans and she hadn’t just forcibly ejected Fred’s life force from her physical body.
Evil Demonlord or Indifferent Bad-Ass?
Depends on her mood. She’s definitely not against regaining her true form and her kingdom, but at the same time, she mourns Wesley’s death and wishes “to do more violence” to avenge him. In her words:
A true ruler is as moral as a hurricane. Empty, but for the force of his gale.
Disclaimer: All images and film clips are the property of 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy Productions.