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Spike acts atypically for a vampire on a number of occasions:

  • When he "turns" his mother, he seems to believe he's doing something good for her, as opposed to something to torment her or others.
  • While perfectly willing to fight and kill, he doesn't seem driven in the way that Angelus, Darla, the Master, or even Drusilla were.
  • He seems to have a genuine fondness for Dawn (over and above his attraction to Buffy).
  • He chooses to resoul himself at the end of season 6 - something one would expect the demon in control to not like the thought of (comparing Angel/Angelus).

Similarly, Harmony seems more like someone who knows how she's supposed to act as a vampire, but isn't all that good at it or devoted to it. (Note - haven't read the comic series seasons 8+ yet; I know she's involved there, and that might change my opinion).

In her case, as a human she seemed most comfortable having others around, and basically took her own identity from them. This would tend to explain her behavior as a vampire as well.

However, most vampires do seem to retain the memories of their human lives, but that all seems subsumed to the demon that replaces their soul (I think that's how it works, though I could be mistaken).

for both Harmony and Spike, much more of their behavior seems similar to their human behavior than the other main vampires we know.

And, in neither case does it seem likely that it's due to the immense strength of character they had a humans.

So - Are some of the demons that take root in vampiric transformation process less strong than others? Or is there a better (in-universe or at least canonical (creator comments outside of shows)) explanation? Or, for that matter, have I horribly misunderstood how the conversion to a vampire happens, with no other demonic spirit/consciousness/whatever being involved?

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    I don't have any great insights. I do think that you're on to something - some demons are definitely stronger than others. We see this throughout the series as the "big bads" that Buffy fights get bigger and badder. That said, at the start, wasn't Spike known as something like the "Slayer Killer" or something like that? Hadn't he already killed a few slayers? – user1118321 Oct 28 '17 at 2:18
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    @user1118321 Spike killed two slayers. The first was in China during the boxer rebellion. The second was in New York City in the 1970s. Let's not forget Spike had the behavior modification chip in his head for at least an entire season (or two? Three?), and perhaps that permanently changed his demon's attitude. – Todd Wilcox Oct 28 '17 at 14:28
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    There's definitely at least one episode where someone (Buffy, I think) explicitly tells someone that when they become a vampire they die and get replaced by a demon, so you're not completely off base here. I think, however, that the demonic "possession" for vampires is more like a merger than a total take-over. The person's original personality remains intact and continues to provide identity and motivation. I think how far and how quickly you descend into evil depends largely on how much your conscience and soul were "holding you back" in the first place. – Steve-O Oct 28 '17 at 17:31
  • Consider Angel - IIRC, he was already an irresponsible drunkard who hated his family and avoided responsibilities as much as possible, even before he was transformed. (I seem to recall Darla embraced him in an alley while he was already on a bender after fighting with his father.) SO, once his soul was gone, it probably didn't take much to encourage him to "go evil" in a big way. – Steve-O Oct 28 '17 at 17:35
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    Not all demons are hell-bent on destroying the world or enslaving mankind. For example, Anya was a revenge demon that was only interested in having women to have revenge on men. She was very powerful though, since she had reality-altering powers. Spike says explicitly that he is not interested in apocalypse when he decides to betray Angelus, as he has so much fun terrorizing humans. That does not make him weaker. – Taladris Oct 30 '17 at 6:00
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There is no definitive answer given in the series but there has been much speculation by the fans. There's a clue in "Dopplegangland" where Buffy tells Willow that a vampire's personality has nothing to do with the person the vampire was before and Angel starts to correct her: "Well, actually" and then reconsiders what he was going to say.

I think that the variability among vampires was one of the more interesting things about the BuffyVerse, but it does make it difficult for any attempt to establish "what the rules are" for vampires. But then, rules in life aren't very easy to find. vampires normally lack souls and normally do evil (presumably one of the things a soul does is provide an understanding of good and evil and perhaps nudge one towards good) but not all people with souls do good and not all vampires are all about evil. Certainly, living on blood is going to have certain consequences whether they are evil or not, but the show does seem to establish that vampires are principally evil.

On the other hand, what does it mean to be evil? In Angelus's case he wants to bring pain and misery and even tries to destroy everything. In Spike's case, he has no such grand plans -- he seems to be more of a scrapper who just enjoys a good fight.

In Spike's case, he spends much of the series with the behvior-modification chip in his brain, which prevents him from doing evil in most respects but doesn't change his nature. And both Spike and Harmony make efforts to fit in with their mortal counterparts when it suits them to (out of self-interest) and yet their actions seem genuine.

So, I think the answer is that good and evil are not the only motivations in the world and both man and vampire are complicated. However, though Spike was capable of caring about people, and doing good, despite being a vampire, he knew that he could never actually be good without regaining his soul, and since he loved Buffy he wanted to do that for her. This suggests that not all demons are alike -- the one which took over Spike clearly allowed more of its host, William, to be incorporated than the one which spawned Angelus. Whether this is weakness or strength, who knows, but it makes for intersting stories.

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