When we first met the lovely Cordelia Chase on Buffy, we were charmed. But after just a few scenes, it was evident that only the outside is “lovely”. Nicety was not one of her virtues.
“Excuse me, who gave you permission to exist?”
As the first season ended Cordelia softened, a little. She'd been targeted by a lot of baddies and she had even done a few selfless things.
“You think I'm never lonely because I'm so cute and popular? I can be surrounded by people and be completely alone. Sometimes when I talk, everyone's so busy agreeing with me, they don't hear a word I say .”
The second season introduces a more likable Cordy. She's still “Queen of Mean”, but we see her vulnerability. She helps the Scoobies, gets involved with Xander and falls from the top of the Sunnydale High hierarchy. When Xander hurts her by kissing Willow, Cordelia's inner bitch comes out again.
“Gee Xander, what are you gonna teach when you fail in life? Advanced loser-being?”
Cordelia's senior year resonates with her usual antagonistic snark. She is forced into the real world of bargain-shopping and jobs with her father's tax evasion. Her lackluster relationship with Wesley is thankfully short-lived. Her grit returns when she reunites with the Scoobies to save the day at graduation. She even kills her first vampire.
“I'm not a sniveling, whiny, little cry-Buffy. I'm the nastiest girl in Sunnydale history. I take crap from no one.”
Cordelia moves to Los Angeles to try to make it as an actress, failing miserably. When Angel saves her from an actual blood-sucking director, the two join forces and Angel Investigations is born. The addition and loss of Doyle along with the return of Wesley allow us to glimpse the real Cordy again.
“I think it, I say it. It's my way.”
As the saga of Angel Investigations unfolds, we get to watch Cordelia roll with the tide. Members of her new “family” all have an impact on her, making her care about more than herself. Her relationship with Angel deepens and brings out an intensity in Cordy not apparent before. Her story takes a dark and unfortunate turn when she returns from the higher plane a victim to Jasmine. But in true Cordelia Chase form, she does prevail:
"I was a cheerleader, a princess and a warrior. And I have visions and superpowers and I'm the target of an evil law firm because I've spent the last three months living on a higher plane, fighting for the forces of good, who wage a battle against demons and evilies and squishy bug babies, 'cause all that stuff's real and that's the world I live in."
Even though Cordelia's story ended way too soon, her influence lived on. She really did evolve from that snotty cheerleader to warrior princess to a powerful omnipotent force for good and love. Her final act was to help Angel find himself again, even though it was without her.
“Don't make it hard, Angel. I'm just on a different road... and this is my off-ramp. The Powers That Be owed me one, and I didn't waste it. I got my guy back on track.”