- "Very few Vampires are cunning enough to have lived as long as I — which you've now demonstrated."
- ―The Master[src]
He was leader of the Order of Aurelius, a vampire cult that worshiped the Old Ones, and also the sire of Darla, inadvertently leading to a long legacy of notable vampires. For centuries he sought to bring about the end of the world until he was stopped in 1997 by the Slayer, Buffy Summers.
The Old World
In the 12th Century, the Master was very powerful and enslaved by the Seed of Wonder. By 1609, he had already lived past the 'curse' of human features, becoming much more demonic in appearance than other vampires, to the point where he resembled the much older and more powerful Turok-Han vampires.
At this time, the Master (posing as a priest) came to the Virginia Colony where he visited the deathbed of a prostitute suffering from syphilis. He tested her faith and saw that she had lost all hope in having her soul saved. Alone with her, the Master revealed himself and that he 'sang' to her from the window the previous night. When she believed he was death, the Master claimed he was actually her savior and that God never did anything for her, but he would before sinking his fangs into her neck and making her into a vampire. About a hundred years after she was born, the Master would nickname her "Darla", meaning "Dear One/Loved One".In a sewer in London, England in 1760, the Master met Angelus, Darla's progeny after they had returned from Yorkshire, England. Angelus, mocking the Master's appearance and the Order's severe dogmas of underground dwelling, was pummeled into the ground after the Master lost his temper during their confrontation. Although, even then, Angelus showed the Master no respect and mocked his aged visage. Darla, despite the Master having made her the person who she was, preferred Angelus' offer of pleasure and adventure, leaving with the "stallion" after her offended Master beat him to a bloody pulp. When Darla choose to abandon The Master to pursue her love affair with Angelus, the Master allowed the two leave and ordered his henchmen to let them pass, but estimated that the couple would last no more than a century before they separated.
Around 1801, The Master fought a Japanese Slayer by the name of Yuki Makimura and sired her, making her one of his own devoted followers. The creation of a Slayer-vampire hybrid disgraced the Watcher's Council so much they erased Yuki from the Slayer timeline.
Around 1880, The Master welcomed Darla back to the Order after she and Angelus had a fight. However, she soon returned to the arms of her lover.
After 1900, Darla returned to The Master for good.
By 1937, The Master, moved to the New World with the hopes of opening the Hellmouth located in Sunnydale and bringing about the end of the world by releasing the Old Ones. While in Sunnydale, he caused a notable raucous by murdering a large number of people. However, months later an earthquake hit town in the middle of the ritual, swallowing half the town, including the church in which The Master was performing the ritual. As the ritual had already commenced, The Master was trapped within a mystical prison, like a cork in a bottle. Now all he had to do to open the Hellmouth was to break through the prison which he didn't have the power to do. Some time around that event, the Master came into contact with the Slayer, India Cohen.
In 1997, after spending 60 years sleeping in a pool of blood, The Master arose again and used the acolytes of his Order of Aurelius to escape his prison within the Hellmouth. This involved the Harvest, a single night occurring each century where the Master could draw power from one of his minions (named "the Vessel") each time it fed, hoping to gather enough power for him to escape. Such Vessel was Luke who drank from several patrons from the Bronze nightclub until he was killed by the current Slayer, Buffy Summers, who had just moved to Sunnydale from Los Angeles, disrupting the Master's plan.
Buffy further upset the Master by killing some of his most cherished minions, such as Zachary. Tired of her meddling, the Master sent the Three to assassinate her but when they failed to do so, he had them killed as penance, something that only brought him little joy. The Master then agreed with Darla to have the Slayer killed her own way by making her think Angelus, now a ensouled Angel, was evil, making Buffy want to kill him and in turn make Angel kill her. This plan also failed when Angel killed Darla in order to save Buffy. After this, the Master became visibly distraught and nearly lost the will to carry out his plans. Nevertheless, words of encouragement from his right-hand child, the Anointed One, strengthened his resolve to continue making preparations for his ascension.
When Billy Palmer, a human boy who was beaten into a coma, astral projected and the Hellmouth in response caused the citizens of Sunnydale's nightmares to manifest in reality, the Master was briefly released from his prison since it was what Buffy feared, having had a nightmare about him overpowering her the night before. On the surface, the Master confronted Buffy at a magically conjured cemetery where he pushed her into a coffin space and buried her alive, before she rose as a vampire. Having the Master set free, being buried alive and becoming a vampire was three of Buffy's own fears that he perpetrated in that single first encounter. When Billy awakened from his coma, stopping everyone's nightmares coming true, the Master was presumably returned to his mystical prison.
- "You tried. It was noble of you. You heard the prophecy that I was about to break free and you came to stop me. But prophecies are tricky creatures. They don't tell you everything. You're the one that sets me free. If you hadn't come, I couldn't go. Think about that."
- ―The Master, before killing Buffy[src]
Fortunately, Angel and Xander Harris arrived in time to revive her, and Buffy confronted the Master just as he ascended to the Sunnydale High roof, above the library where Hellmouth was located directly below.
Though shocked at seeing her alive, the Master made another attempt at her with his hypnosis but she somehow resisted and the two began hand-to-hand fighting. As a creature from the Hellmouth rose and attacked Buffy's friends, the Master remarked on how Buffy would still be making jibes while his hell was raining on earth. Buffy grabbed the Master by the neck and said if he was so excited about hell, he should go there. She then ultimately defeated him by throwing him through the skylight and impaling him on a large piece of wood. Unlike most vampires, who turned completely to dust upon their death, The Master left behind a skeleton. His remains were then buried in the Sunnydale Cemetery and consecrated with holy water to prevent any vampires from retrieving him.
- Big Ugly: "The Master is dead. Someone has to take his place."
- Lean Boy: "As long as the Slayer is alive, whoever takes his place will be sharing his grave!"
- Big Ugly: "Then let the soul who kills her wear his mantle."
- — The Master's minions discussing who should take his place[src]
Months later, having assumed leadership of the Order, the Anointed One attempted to resurrect the Master via a revivification ritual. He forced his minions to dig up the Master's bones despite the holy water burning their hands and kidnapped Rupert Giles, Jenny Calendar, Willow Rosenberg and Cordelia Chase, all of whom where in the vicinity of the Master when he died as the ritual required. Buffy, having suffered post-traumatic stress disorder as result of her death, became mean and malicious to others and it was only when she discovered that her friends had been kidnapped, due to her impulsively falling into a trap, that she decided to think straight again. She, along with Angel and Xander, intervened and killed all of the remaining minions present before crushing the Master's bones to dust with a sledgehammer, ending his threat permanently and allowing her to move on with her life.
Weeks after the event, the Order decided that whoever would be successful in killing the Slayer would take the Master's place as leader of the Order. Spike, a member of the Master's bloodline, elected to prove himself by killing the Slayer his way on the Night of Saint Vigeous. His plan having failed, costing the Order several minions and ruining the Night of Saint Vigoreus by impatiently launching his attack before the event, Spike dusted the Anointed One and took over the factory they inhabited after the Master's death. It was then that Spike announced that there would be a little less ritual, and little more fun in Sunnydale, contrasting to the Master's near unshakable traditionalist world view.
- "Right back to the beginning! Not the bang, not the word... the true beginning. The next few months are going to be quite a ride, and I think we're all going to learn something about ourselves in the process. You'll learn you're a pathetic schmuck, if it hasn't sunk in already. Look at you... tried to do what's right. Just like her. You still don't get it. It's not about right. Not about wrong."
- ―The First, impersonating the Master.[src]
Six years later, the First Evil taunted a now-ensouled Spike by taking the shape of the major enemies faced by the Scooby Gang including the Master (despite the Master and Spike never actually meeting before) along with Drusilla, Mayor Richard Wilkins III, Adam, Glorificus and Warren Mears in that order reversed.
- "Kids. They only visit when they need something."
- ―The Master[src]
As a result of the battle, Willow overtook the power of the Seed, abandoning the Master in the church. When Buffy and a possessed Angel arrived, Angel shattered the Master's head with a single punch, dusting him once again.
- The Master: "You're dead!"
- Buffy: "I may be dead, but I'm still pretty. Which is more than I can say for you."
- — Buffy Summers, commenting on the Master's appearance[src]
- Darla: "The Master has grown past the curse of human features"
- Angelus: "I'm not gonna get a bat-nose like that, huh? Am I? "
- — Angelus, insulting the Master[src]
The Master possessed a more ghoulish appearance than regular vampires which was apparently permanent, preventing him from assuming a human visage, a likely effect of his old age. His features somewhat resembled that of a Turok-Han vampire. He had white pale skin, a bald head with pointed ears and yellowish, talon-like nails. His face had the basic vampire brow ridge, wrinkles and fangs except with blood red eyes instead of yellow and a snub, bat-like nose. He also had a distinctive red stain on his nose down to his mouth which Buffy refered to as "fruit punch mouth".
At least since the late 20th century, the Master was always seen wearing a black leather Nehru jacket with a belt and matching pants and boots. In the 17th century when he sired Darla, the Master disguised himself as priest, using a dark robe with its hood covering his face. Later in the 18th century while meeting Angelus, the Master wore a black leathery vest with long, quilted sleeves.
- "Nobody died...what's the fun in burying someone if they're already dead?"
- ―The Master[src]
The Master was a ruthless overlord who expected total devotion from his followers and expected them to risk their very own lives for his cause.
Minions who failed to carry out their objectives were brutalized by the Master himself or called upon to mutilate themselves in an act of penance. An example of this was Claw, who cut off his own arm after displeasing the Master, but still had to depart from the Order. The Master was also personally offended when Darla offered him Jesse McNally as food, a human she feed off beforehand which the Master considered to be scraps.
However, the Master did consider the taking of a life (obviously not a human one) to be a serious matter and not to be taken for personal joy. He also believed the Order of Aurelius was more a family than a religious order, considering his minions as his own children and that providing them with the responsibility to preform executions was for their own learning, even initially denying Darla the chance to kill Buffy because her desire to do so was based mainly for her own self-interest rather than for the good of the Order. Despite this family-orientated attitude, the Master was prone to favoritism. His most treasured disciple was Darla, whom he viewed as a daughter, and nearly lost the will to continue his plans when she was staked by Angel.
The Master was a strong traditionalist who viewed human culture and life above ground as "pestilence", forbidding his minions from living on the surface, only allowing them to leave when hunting, however, he seemed to change this view when rising from the church after being freed, admiring the surface after decades of isolation where it he forgot what it was like.His Wisherse counterpart furthered this; after having spent so long trapped underground, he openly defied the Order's old-established views and conquered Sunnydale.
The Master also held a belief in demonic superiority, living in tribute to the Old Ones and claiming that vampires were undeniably the superior race in the Wishverse (which would be consistent in the original timeline considering the Wishverse Master's more laid-back demeanor). Interestingly, the Master himself claimed that his objectives were for the 'common good'.
Despite his cold-hearted nature, the Master was fairly charismatic and had a sardonically dry sense of humor, asking the Anointed One if the earthquake that preceded the oncoming apocalypse was "5.1" on the Richter scale after making an overzealous performance to accompany it, blatantly remarking that Buffy's sarcastic comment about his lair's water leakage as "the feeble banter portion of the fight" (which seemed to be an on-going feature in her slaying) and even taking the time to compliment Buffy's dress as he finally escaped his lair, pitifully remarking "And by the way. I like your dress"
Powers and Abilities
- "You're way out of your league, kid. The Master'll kill you before you can breathe—if you're lucky."
Enhanced vampire abilities — Because of his extremely advanced age as the oldest vampire ever recorded, the Master possessed superhuman strength, speed, reflexes and endurance far beyond those of any other vampires. He clearly demonstrated this by defeating many Slayers throughout history, including Yuki Makimura and Buffy Summers. Master also demonstrated fair hand-to-hand combat skills, able to hold his own against Buffy and showed to have a tendancy to grab victims by the throat in order to overpower them, a tendancy Buffy used against him when she killed him in 1997.
The Master once lifted a minion of his by the neck with a single arm and effortlessly threw him into a stack of church benches, easily tossed an insulting Angelus to the other side of the room, and displayed impressive speed, catching an arrow mid-fight that Buffy shot at him without warning and then quickly moving out of her field of vision in a split second while she reloaded without a single sound to indicate that he changed his position.
The Master also demonstrated a higher resistance to crosses, when he was able to look at a large cross (though with disgust and anguish) and touch it, the cross emitting visible smoke as it burned his hand but not harming him. The Master explained that this was because fear, like pain, was in the mind, which could be controlled. Because he conquered his fear he could not feel any pain. Additionally, the Master also dreaded the very church he was imprisoned in, though could live in it for over 60 years.
Hypnosis — The Master had adept hypnotic abilities which allowed him to control people's motor functions with the wave of his hand, not even requiring their gaze, and thus taking control of their bodies and rendering them unable to move, but still conscious of what was being done to them. Not even the Slayer was capable of resisting it. He used this on Buffy and the hypnosis was powerful enough that she remained immoble even when he threw her into the pool after biting her, leaving her to drown. The Master later tried to hypnotize her a second time where managed to draw her towards him only to find out she was now immune to his hypnotic power. Why this is was never explained. 
Razor-sharp fingernails — Like his descendants Darla and Drusilla, the Master has demonstrated having extremely sharp fingernails capable of easily tearing and wounding flesh; once when he punishingly jammed his finger into the eye of one of his minions (sarcastically quipping "Oh, hold on...you got something in your eye") and the other whilst in mid-fight with a resuscitated Buffy where he striked her with his nails, scratching her chest which caused visible scarring though not enough to deter her.
Skeletal Preservation — The Master had the distinction of being the only known vampire in existence powerful enough to leave his skeleton intact while his flesh and clothing disintegrated into dust upon death. This gave way for him to resurrected by a certain magic ritual until his bones were destroyed, preventing the ritual from being conducted. However, despite the Master leaving skeletal remains during his death in 1997 at the hands of Buffy, this apparently wasn't so after his second death by a possessed Angel.
Sorcery and Occult Aptitude — Numerous times, the Master has demonstrated intimate knowledge of dark rituals and prophesies — such as The Harvest, the rise of The Anointed and The Pergamum Codex's prediction of Buffy's death and his rise despite the text being lost for over five hundred years (though the Master could of easily read the prophecies before it was lost). It's also likely the Master would've have at least some knowledge of sorcery and magic since he tried to open the Hellmouth.
Psychic sensory — The Master appeared to at least possess some psychic ability when he could sense a powerful psychic force caused by the astral projection of Billy Palmer (though it's possible he was sensing the hellmouth having resided so close to it underground, it being the cause of the problem).
Darla — Darla was the Master's most cherished minion out of the whole Order. The Master himself referred to her as his favorite. It was apparent that he didn't just sire her randomly, having allegedly 'sang' to her night before. As Darla laid hopeless, the Master seemed to see some potential in her and the two grew a close bond for the next two centuries. The Master shocked that Darla abandoned her own sire for a younger vampire but respected her decision, knowing their relationship wouldn't last. The Master was once, though, harsh to Darla when she gave him an unacceptable offering before the Harvest, openly threatening her. Though this only seemed to fit his role as 'father' of the Order and wouldn't allow her too much liberties, shown when he allowed her to execute the Three, knowing she would take much joy in the act while believing little was enough. When Darla died, the Master became openly aggressive, smashing one of his candleholders in anger until the Anointed comforted him.
Angelus/Angel — The Master showed to have mixed feelings for Angel and his soulless counterpart. He was impressed at Darla for bringing Angelus to him, even admiring the name she choose for him, thinking it was marvelous. His good mood then changed when Angelus mocked his appearance and the Order's views, beating him for not showing the 'proper respect'. However, by 1997, the Master's opinion of Angel seemed to changed, though apparently aware of his ensoulment and name change, the Master claimed Angel was "the most vicious creature" he ever met and even admitted to missing him. The Master was even shocked that it was Angel was killed Darla, wanting Angel to be at his right hand come his ascension.
Zachary — Like Darla, the Master seemed to value his minion Zachary and was upset when hearing that he didn't come back from the hunt the previous night because of the Slayer, considering Zachary to be one of his children. The extent of their relationship was never shown.
The Anointed One — The Master quickly developed a close bond with the young vampire, acting as the Anointed's mentor, teaching him how to successfully run the order in terms of punishing failure and also the power fear has and how a vampire could conquer anything if they conquered their fear. The Master even held stones in his hand that the Anointed would use to throw onto the pools of water in the church and derived solace from the young vampire's hopeful words after Darla's death. The Anointed also seemed to appreciate the Master and his rulings, working to resurrect him despite having inherited the Master's rule and maintaining the Order's traditions until he was usurped by the rebel Spike.
Behind the Scenes
- He was portrayed by Mark Metcalf. He was also played by David Boreanaz in a flashback sequence in "When She Was Bad" and voiced by D.C Douglas in 2003 Xbox video game Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
- Joss Whedon's notes for "Welcome to the Hellmouth" indicated that The Master's real name was Heinrich Joseph Nest and his age was 600 years. However, the flashback to 1609 in "Darla" shows The Master already with his bat-like demonic visage, meaning he was far older than just 600 years by 1997, as this would have made The Master over 300 by 1609, and he wouldn't look like that, as shown with Darla who is over 400 years old.
- If the Master's real name truely is "Heinrich", its possible he might of originated from Germany as a human.
- Despite his old world origins, the Master spoke with a modern American accent, even before he came to Sunnydale. In the 2003 video game, however, the Master had an English accent.
- The Master was originally supposed to have a beard and long hair. Mark Metcalf came up with the bald, more demonic look as a homage to Nosferatu.
- According to Metcalf, the Master's makeup took 5 hours to put on.
- The Master's appearance and the events of "Prophecy Girl" parallel some of the themes in the 1922 German horror classic Nosferatu. The fact that it was prophesied that Buffy would have to die fighting the Master is similar to how Ellen Hutter had to let Count Orlock feed off her in order for him to be distracted until the sun comes up. The victimization of the young woman to the monstrous male figure symbolizes male dominance and the drinking of blood carries themes of rape (shown by the Master's powerful reaction after biting Buffy). Buffy the Vampire Slayer in turn offers a feminist subversion where Buffy, the female victim, defeats her male aggressor. The Master in general is representitive of traditional monsters of the horror genre with Buffy playing as a subversion of the typical, helpless female victim common among horror films, the Master's traditionalist, patriarchal disposition going in contrast with Buffy's modern and witty character.
- The Master was indirectly responsible for The Whirlwind: The Master sired Darla, who sired Angelus, who sired Drusilla, who sired Spike. On an interesting note, that indirect action brought forth two of the worst known vampires (Angelus and Spike), who had an even worse reputation than The Master. It also left the Master responsible for his own demise and the end of the Order of Aurelius, due to Angel's pivotal role in his death, and Spike's murder of the Anointed One.
- The Master is, and remains, the only Big Bad or enemy in general that killed Buffy with his own devices.
- The Master is also responsible for the activation of Kendra Young after Buffy's temporary death, creating two Slayers in existence for the first time ever.
- In the first Buffy the Vampire Slayer video game, The Master returns as a phantom and, with the help of a trio of demons known as the Dreamers, possesses Angel to regain a physical presence. Ultimately Willow Rosenberg banishes him from Angel, the Scoobies subsequently using a spell to make him temporarily corporeal once again. With Buffy now able to stake the Master once he regains a solid form, Giles states that Buffy's destruction of The Master's body in this manner also destroyed his spirit. In the game the Master also possesses other abilities such as teleportation, telekinesis and switching between corporeal and incorporeal form for a limited time.
- In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Comics Issue #38 False Memories, we learn moments before his final death, the Master was able to move his essence to the astral plane, where he would remain until he could return into a new body. An attempt to bring him back to the land of the living by his congregation, the Eidu, was nearly successful. Using the Eidu Amulet, which is a bridge to the spirit world, the Eidu kidnapped Xander and planned to use his body as the vessel for the Master's astral essence to inhabit. Before the Master could enter the body, Willow and Tara cast a spell to temporarily keep the Master's spirit from possessing Xander. During the ritual, the Master's essence was destroyed after he was struck with a vapor blade by Buffy's sister, Dawn. 
The Master was the primary villian in the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He appeared in 10 episodes all together (6 living, 1 in a dream, 1 in the Wishverse, 1 in archive footage and 1 as a disguise of the First Evil). He also appeared in one episode in the second season of Angel in flashbacks. He appeared in 11 Buffyverse episodes altogether, 9 of which featured the acting talent of Mark Metcalf.
The Master would later return in Buffy Season Eight in the first four issues of the final story arc Last Gleaming. He previously made cameo appearances during Buffy's astral dream in Part 3 of The Long Way Home and during one of her decoy's activivation in The Chain. He later appeared in the Angel comic Auld Lang Syne as a clone in the first and fourth parts. He appeared in 8 Buffyverse comic issues overall.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
|Welcome to the Hellmouth
|Never Kill a Boy on the First Date
|I Robot, You Jane||The Puppet Show||Nightmares
|Out of Mind, Out of Sight
|Anne||Dead Man's Party||Faith, Hope & Trick||Beauty and the Beasts||Homecoming||Band Candy||Revelations||Lovers Walk||The Wish
Appears (Only in Wishverse)
|Helpless||The Zeppo||Bad Girls||Consequences||Doppelgängland
Appears (Only in Wishverse archive footage)
|Enemies||Earshot||Choices||The Prom||Graduation Day, Part One||Graduation Day, Part Two|
Buffy Season Eight