Buffy Character: Kendra | Bianca Lawson

Kendra was a Slayer who appeared in three episodes in the second season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

She was activated when Buffy died in the final episode of season 1 and was sent to Sunnydale to continue work on the Hellmouth, before realizing that Buffy had been resurrected. She ended up joining forces with Buffy and the Scooby gang for a brief period until her death. 

Kendra was portrayed by Bianca Lawson. Her introduction represented the first time that two Slayers had ever existed simultaneously in the Buffy universe, before characters such as Faith and the Potential Slayers came along.

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Kendra’s contrasting personality made for an interesting dynamic between her and Buffy, which many fans of the show enjoyed greatly. It was very exciting to see two Slayers at once, as there had never before been another person with the same powers as Buffy, so she was no longer the only ‘Chosen One’. 

Kendra was not given an official surname in the show, but Joss Whedon stated this as Young in additional materials he wrote for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Roleplaying Game.

This has been used in subsequent media based on the franchise, but she was only ever referred to simply as Kendra on screen. The same is true for Faith, who was next in line to become the Slayer after Kendra.

Biography

Background

Kendra was from Jamaica, where she lived throughout her early life. She had a strong and specific Jamaican accent from a small region of Jamaica, which endeared her to many fans and made her very memorable.

Because of her heritage, she was unfamiliar with common American slang terms and would later be visibly confused at some of the phrases Buffy came out with.

When her parents found out that she was a potential Slayer, they handed her over to the Watchers Council. This meant that she began training at a very young age, and couldn’t remember much about her parents at all. She was allowed to keep photos of them 

Kendra was placed under the tutelage of her Watcher, Sam Zabuto, who taught her to be fully committed to her training. She was forbidden from participating in anything that might distract her, including partying, having hobbies, or even speaking to boys.

This level of discipline meant that friends were a mystery to her and she didn’t know how to form connections with other people. She studied demon lore in depth, and followed the Slayer’s Handbook to the letter.

Zabuto sent her to Sunnydale in 1997 when threats of a dark power rising there began to surface, but neither of them was aware that a Slayer was still active there.

Arrival in Sunnydale

When Kendra first came to Sunnydale, she saw Buffy and Angel kissing at an ice skating rink and assumed that Buffy must also be a vampire. She locked Angel in a cage after fighting him in Willy’s bar, leaving him to be exposed to sunlight that would later pour through the window if he didn’t escape.

She then went to his apartment to find Buffy and attack her as well; Buffy thought Kendra belonged to the Order of Taraka, and was the second assassin sent to kill her. The two girls fought but soon realized that they were both Slayers.

They went to see Giles, who worked out that Kendra must have been activated upon Buffy’s temporary death – as soon as the current Slayer dies, the next one is called up, but it had never happened before that a Slayer had been resurrected.

The two Slayers decided to work together to defeat the dark evil, but they clashed initially due to how much their upbringings and attitudes towards life differed.

Buffy liked to rely on the support of her friends and enjoyed a range of relationships with other people, whereas Kendra was fully focused on her work and believed that emotions would get in the way.

Kendra could not understand how Buffy could ever love a vampire, but witnessed how strongly they felt about one another. By the time she left Sunnydale, she even accepted that Angel was in fact “pretty cute”, although she wouldn’t mention this to her Watcher. 

Together, Buffy, Kendra and the Scooby gang learnt that the dark power Kendra’s Watcher had warned her about was Drusilla. Dru’s boyfriend Spike wanted to sacrifice Angel so that Drusilla could be restored to health, so they kidnapped him and prepared the ritual.

Kendra helped Buffy to rescue Angel, even though helping a vampire went against everything she had been taught. This meant that the threat was quashed for now, so Kendra was able to leave Sunnydale and return to her hometown, where she continued her work slaying vampires.

Death

At the end of season 2, Kendra came back to Sunnydale, on account of another threat that was looming there. This time it was a demon called Acathla, who would pull the whole world into hell when he opened his mouth.

Kendra arrived with a sword that had been blessed by the first knight to slay Acathla, which she then entrusted to Buffy – it was supposedly their only hope of killing the demon if he were to be awoken again. 

Angel had lost his soul again by this time, with his evil persona Angelus taking his place. Kendra and Xander believed that Angelus should be killed to stop Acathla, while Buffy was convinced that Willow could restore his soul by performing the ritual of restoration.

Buffy told Kendra to protect Willow at the library as she attempted the ritual, while Buffy herself went to confront Angelus at a graveyard. 

When Drusilla entered the library to interrupt the ritual, Kendra ended up fighting a group of her minions by herself. Drusilla then fought Kendra one-on-one, studying her fighting style and working out what her next moves would be.

Unfortunately, because Kendra could only use the textbook techniques she had been taught, Drusilla was able to counter her easily and put her in a trance. She then killed her by slitting her throat, leaving her dead on the library floor for a distraught Buffy to find.

Kendra’s death activated a new Slayer, Faith Lehane. Buffy was initially suspected by the police of killing Kendra, until eyewitness accounts vouched for her innocence (Buffy’s mother Joyce expressed relief when Buffy told her that Drusilla had killed Kendra, as she too had believed the accusations). 

Buffy took Kendra’s stake with her and used it in slayings, showing that she wanted to keep her memory alive and even considered her a good luck charm of sorts. 

Personality/Traits

Kendra took her work as a Slayer very seriously, and dedicated her life to training and eliminating threats. She closed herself off from others as she believed that a Slayer should only be focused on her work.

She had not been able to build connections with people due to her lifetime of rigorous training, and was particularly shy around boys – this was apparent when she was unable to look Xander in the eye upon meeting him.

However, she was not entirely immune to superstition or similar human traits, and she had a ‘lucky stake’ called Mr Pointy that she carried everywhere. She gave Mr Pointy to Buffy to help in her confrontation with Angelus, a gesture that Buffy found heartwarming. 

She told Giles that she’d read the whole Slayer’s Handbook, as well as numerous other books that helped build her slaying proficiency. This enabled her to perform her Slayer duties exactly as she was supposed to, although she did not have much practical experience before coming to Sunnydale.

Unlike Buffy, she preferred to carry out her duties without any added theatricals, and would not deliver any glib lines after slaying a particularly troublesome vampire.

That said, she did have her share of one-liners that displayed a little of that familiar Slayer attitude; an example of this was when Buffy explained to her that she doesn’t take orders from anyone, and Kendra coolly responded ‘No wonder you died’.

Buffy found her very austere and often wished she would lighten up, although she did start to gel more with the rest of the Scooby gang and become a valued member of the team.

She still stuck to her rigid boundaries even in emotional situations, refusing to hug Buffy when they bid farewell to one another at the airport. 

Kendra was shocked when she found out that Buffy had a whole gang who knew about her destiny, as she believed the Slayer should always take care to conceal their identity from others.

She also insisted that emotions were a weakness, and the Slayer must always maintain a level head to stay focused on the job in hand. In time, she would let slip occasional flashes of emotion, showing that Buffy’s influence had rubbed off on her slightly.

Ultimately, though, her unwavering obedience of authority brought about her demise, as it made her susceptible to being hypnotized by Drusilla. 

Appearance

Kendra’s clothing choices were very limited, and it was implied that she didn’t own an extensive wardrobe. She favored practicality in her outfits, opting for skin-tight crop tops and loose cargo pants to allow her a full range of motion.

While Buffy loved to patrol in various glamorous outfits, including a pink halter top, Kendra would wear the same clothes again and again. Her stringent exercise regime ensured a flat stomach and strong, muscular build, which proved very efficient in destroying vampires. 

Despite having committed her time fully to her training, Kendra was always seen with impeccable make-up and perfectly manicured nails, showing that she also took care to maintain her appearance.

She wore large hoop earrings and jeweled necklaces, but these clearly didn’t cause problems for her when it came to fighting. Her long hair was scraped back out of her face, but also maintained an elaborate plaited style across the top and sides.

It was always neat, no matter how much she’d been fighting – her appearance was a point of pride for her, and she saw it as part of her Slayer duties to look presentable.

During the scuffle to rescue Angel she fought Patrice, the third assassin sent to kill Buffy, and ended up ripping her favorite shirt – a purple crop top with long sleeves and silver cuffs.

She claimed this was not only her favorite shirt, but in fact the only shirt she had, so Buffy lent her one of hers for the journey out of Sunnydale. This line was a nod to the fact that Kendra was only seen in that one outfit like a cartoon character.

Powers/Abilities

As a Slayer, Kendra possessed all the heightened physical abilities that come with the territory. She was incredibly strong and supple, making light work of any vampires that crossed her.

She also had immense speed and stamina, allowing her to fight across extended periods of time without becoming tired. Like Buffy, she experienced prophetic dreams at times, which indicated events that would later come to pass.

While Buffy was endowed with the same skills, Kendra had the added advantages that an encyclopedic knowledge of demons brought. This prepared her for encountering many enemies such as the Order of Taraka, as she knew about individual demons’ strengths and weaknesses.

She was also a weapons expert, due to extensive weapons training, but became unstuck when faced with variations she was unfamiliar with – for example, she broke a lamp with one of Buffy’s crossbows when it had a different mechanism to what she was used to.

Her reliance on approved techniques and methods would prove to be a handicap at times, as she was unable to improvise when the situation called for it – Buffy acted more on instinct, which often gave her the upper hand over her adversaries.

Relationships

Buffy Summers 

At first, the two Slayers were cold towards each other, and their vastly different approaches to their calling caused tension between them. Buffy was understandably wary of a new Slayer coming in and taking on her role, as she very much treated slaying like a job.

Kendra saw it as something innate, a calling that was a part of them rather than a burden, so each could not understand the opposite perspective. However, they both began to learn from the other and made a formidable team that grew from strength to strength in their short time together.

They would have become great friends if Kendra hadn’t been killed off in her prime.

Sam Zabuto 

Kendra’s Watcher was very strict and didn’t allow her to have a life outside of her training. He trained her from childhood, so knew her very well and molded her personality as she grew. Although their relationship was pragmatic, he clearly cared about her and wanted her to be successful in everything she did.

Giles 

As soon as Kendra arrived on the scene, Giles was impressed by her dedication to her Slayer duties. She showed tremendous knowledge of ancient texts and the Slayer Handbook – something Buffy hadn’t even known existed, let alone taken the time to read.

Buffy observed how similar Kendra and Giles were in their bookishness, even nicknaming her ‘She-Giles’ at one point.

Kendra gave Giles a brief glimpse into an alternate life in which his Slayer would always do everything he said and not talk back to him, as she was far more disciplined than Buffy. However, he could never see Kendra as a daughter figure like he did with Buffy.

Drusilla 

Despite their only meeting being brief and ending in Kendra’s death, these two had a palpable connection. Kendra was clearly terrified of Drusilla, but tried gallantly to fight her.

Drusilla saw Kendra as more of a plaything, nonchalantly hypnotizing her before slashing her throat with a fingernail. The ease with which Drusilla was able to wipe out a Slayer emphasized the threat she posed to Sunnydale as a whole.

Xander

Kendra was not allowed to talk to boys growing up, so was very stilted in her communication with Xander. She also took a liking to him, causing her to stutter and making her unable to initiate conversation or eye contact with him. 

Appearances

Kendra only appeared in a few episodes of season 2, but made a big impact on the Buffy universe during that time. She was mentioned in other seasons at various points, showing the importance of her character in the overall story arc. The full list of episodes where she actually appeared on screen is as follows:

  • Season 2, Episode 9 – What’s My Line Part 1
  • Season 2, Episode 10 – What’s My Line Part 2
  • Season 2, Episode 21 – Becoming Part 1


Kendra’s personal narrative has been explored in the wider Buffy universe, including in many of the comics. These are not considered canon by some, but are exciting reading if you enjoy the character and feel cheated at seeing so little of her in the TV show.

There are in-depth studies into her background and family life, as well as her relationship with her Watcher, which was more like a typical Watcher-Slayer dynamic than that of Buffy and Giles.

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Marianne LeBlanc
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