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The 5 most surprisingly bad-ass characters in the Whedonverse

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The Whedonverse is full of bad-asses. From Buffy to Zoe, Angel to Malcom Reynolds, Joss Whedon seems to have a soft spot for people who can kill you with their pinky. But what about the less obvious bad-asses of the Whedonverse? What about the bad-asses who go about their bad-assery quietly, or grow into their bad-assery, or who carry out acts of bad-assery right under our very noses until we suddenly are forced to admit, "Whoa. That right there is a bad-ass."

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So it is with great pride (and more than a little trepidation) that we give you five of the most surprising bad-asses in the works of Joss Whedon. The fact that three out of the five happen to be British is simply a coincidence (we think).

Penny, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: Besides being a coming-of-evil story for a woefully inept supervillain, Dr. Horrible can also be described as a game of Capture the Flag between Billy (aka Dr. Horrible) and his arch nemesis Captain Hammer. The flag? Penny (Felicia Day), the quirky-yet-shy redhead from the laundromat who dedicates her time to helping the homeless. While Captain Hammer and Dr. Horrible fight over the girl and try to defeat one another, the girl in question is busy gathering signatures and organizing a fundraiser to enact some actual good in the world. Captain Hammer claims to be a hero, and Dr. Horrible claims to want to effect change by upsetting the status quo, but neither of them actually helps anyone except themselves. Penny on the other hand is almost entirely selfless and succeeds in her mission to fund a new homeless shelter for the city. Like a bad-ass.

Rupert Giles, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy's Watcher, mentor, and father figure was known as "Ripper" in his younger days, but that's not what makes the straight-laced Brit in tweed a surprising bad-ass. What made Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) a bad-ass was his willingness to follow Buffy in saving the world, even when it meant turning his back on the Council. He was capable, intelligent, quietly courageous, and the best teacher the Scoobies could've asked for. While Buffy was a hero in the truest sense of the word, Giles did what was necessary to save her from sacrificing her humanity, as in the case of the season five finale when he smothered Ben because Buffy couldn't bring herself to kill an innocent. Whether he was stabbing the mayor in the heart with a foil in a bout of rage, or telling Buffy that he respected her in spite of what happened with Angel in season two, Giles was the premier bad-ass of the Whedonverse

Adele DeWitt, Dollhouse: Part madame, part mob boss, and part nurturing maternal figure, Adele (Olivia Williams) was surprisingly bad-ass for more than just her sick fencing skills. Her surprising bad-assery can be summed up in this quote, from the season two episode "Belonging": "I'd no sooner let you near another one of our actives than I'd let a mad dog near a child. You're a rapist scumbag just one tick short of a murderer. I've forgotten, do you take sugar with your tea?" Now that's how a bad-ass would intimidate her enemies: With brutal honesty and British hospitality. Though she seemed cold and calculating at times, Adele never failed to rise to a challenge and to make the hard decisions on behalf of those under her charge.

Wesley Wyndham-Pryce, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel: When Wesley (Alexis Denisof) is introduced on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he's literally a joke. He's inexperienced, arrogant, cowardly, and oh so very British. But through his tenure on Angel, Wesley transforms into one of biggest bad-asses in the Whedonverse. His cowardice evaporates as he gains more experience fighting demons at Angel's side, and his knowledge of magic and prophecy proves both invaluable and tragic. Perhaps what's most surprising about Wesley's bad-assery is that we get to watch him grow into it, through tragedy and necessity. Who knew that the Council's bumbling representative and former boarding school Head Boy could end up sacrificing his life to save humanity?

Shepard Book, Firefly, Serenity: A man of God who is suprisingly fuzzy on the subject of kneecaps, Shepard Book (Ron Glass) served not only as Serenity's conscience, but proved to know a surprising amount about the Alliance and military tactics on more than one occasion. From how he skillfully saved the ship from rogue Alliance police without firing a single shot in "The Message," to how he helped rescue Wash and Mal from Niska in "War Stories," to how he threatened Mal with The Special Hell in "Our Mrs. Reynolds" to defend the innocence of a girl he didn't know, to how he steadfastly refused to reveal his past connections to the Alliance military, Shepard Book was a quiet bad-ass but always ready when he was needed. He may not have been a true fighter like Jayne or Zoe, but Shepard Book was surprisingly bad-ass on a number of levels.

Can’t stop the signal: Did I miss your favorite surprisingly bad-ass character in the work of Joss Whedon? Well darn, nobody's perfect! Tell us all about it in a comment below.

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