Willow Rosenberg is a fictional character created by Joss Whedon for the fantasy drama series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003). She was portrayed by Alyson Hannigan for all episodes, excluding the unaired pilot in which she was portrayed by Riff Reagan. Willow is the Slayer's geeky sidekick who contributes to the Scooby Gang by using her vast knowledge over technology to hack computers and research various monsters. She later begins practicing magic and blossoms into an assertive and powerful young witch. In the sixth, Willow's magical use becomes and addiction and she nearly destroys the world. She spends the following seasons trying to recover from this addiction.
She is one of the first major characters to come out as gay on television at that time.
AOL named her the second greatest television witch in history, proceeding Samantha Stevens and succeeding Piper Halliwell.
Willow is the Slayer's geeky sidekick who is good with computers and lacks self confidence. Riff Reagan was cast to play Willow in the unaired pilot, however was replaced shortly after. 23-year-old Alyson Hannigan auditioned seven times before being cast as Willow. Hannigan drew from her own high school experience to play Willow, describing it as "overwhelmingly depressing".
Seasons 1-3 (1997-1999)Edit
Buffy the Vampire Slayer aired on the WB on March 10, 1997 and immediately recieved positive reviews. Willow is introduced as a bookish shy high school girl who is often harassed by Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) and the other popular students for her choice in clothing. In the first episode ("Welcome to the Hellmouth") she makes friends with Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and reveals to Buffy that she has been friends with Xander Harris (Brendan Harris) for years. Together, Willow, Buffy and Xander are mentored by Giles (Anthony Stewart Head), the school's librarian and Buffy's Watcher. Giles connects with Willow by aiding her in hacking computers and researching various monsters online. Willow often gets herself in many supernatural predicaments in which she must be saved by Buffy.
In the second season, she becomes more confident in herself, being able to approach Xander who she's had a crush on for years, although he is in love with Buffy. Oz (Seth Green) is introduced in season 2 and becomes Willow's boyfriend and who is also a werewolf. After Willow's technopagan computer teacher Jenny Calendar (Robia LaMorte) dies, Willow studies her magic books and performs a spell to restore Angel's soul.
The third season brings Willow, Buffy and Xander's senior year. Willow is still in a strong relationship with Oz, but it becomes strained when she is caught cheating on him with Xander. Her life at home is explored more in "Gingerbread" when her mother, Shelia, is introduced as a career-obsessed intellect who attempts to burn her daughter at at the stake while under the influence of a demon. In "The Wish", a vengeance demon Anya Jenkins (Emma Caulfield) grants Cordelia's wish that Buffy would have never come to Sunnydale. The wish transforms Sunndyale into a vampire infested town and Willow into a provocative vampire. "Vamprie Willow", as she is called, later appears in "Doppelgangland" when Anya and Willow perform a spell which accidentally releases Vampire Willow into their world.
Seasons 4-6 (1999-2002)Edit
In the fourth season, Willow chooses to attend college in Sunnydale with Buffy. Her relationships with Xander and Buffy become strained as they are all trying to find their places in the world. Willow is admired for her intellect and excells in classes, while Buffy struggles and Xander does not attend college. Willow's relationship with Oz continues, but is abruptly ended when his wolf tendencies cause him to have sex with another werewolf Veruca. Oz subsequently leaves Sunnydale. Prior to Oz's leave, Willow meets fellow witch Tara Maclay. The two quickly bond over their mutual interest in witchcraft. Oz later returns, having his tendencies controled, hoping to rekindle a relationship with Willow, but she rejects his offer as she perfers to be with Tara.
The fifth season introduces Glory (Claire Kramer), a hell goddess who is bent on finding a Key and going back to her dimension. Through witchcraft, Willow has been the only character to damage Glory. In the final episode of the fifth season, she uses a spell to transfer Tara's insantiy caused by Glory into Glory herself, weakening Glory enough so that she can be defeated.
In the sixth season, Willow and Tara are now living in the Summers household with Buffy's younger sister, Dawn (Michelle Trachgenberg ). Believing she is being enternally tortured in hell, Willow rounds up Anya, Xander and Tara to bring Buffy back to life subsequent to her death at the end of the fifth season. Willow performs a dark ritual to bring Buffy back, which succseeds, however a small hiccup occurs during the ritual when a league of motorcycle-riding demons interrupts the ritual. This causes Buffy to awaken in her coffin and gasping for air. She eventually breaks through the coffin and frees herself. Buffy's behavior subsequent to the resurrection leads Willow to believe that she incorrectly performed the ritual. It's revealed in "Once More, With Feeling" that Buffy was actually in a heavenly dimension, not hell. Willow's powers have grown stronger in the sixth season, now being able to communicate telepathically with others and control Tara's mind. Willow's overuse of magic leads Tara to challenge her to not use magic for an entire month, which fails and she terminates their relationship. After Tara's leave, Willow descends deeper into addiction and nearly kills Dawn. From that episode until "Seeing Red" that she doesn't use magic. In "Villains", Tara is accidentally shot by Warren Mears who was attempting to kill Buffy. In a burning rage, Willow calls on Osiris to bring Tara back, but he tells her that it cannot be done because her death wasn't supernatural like Buffy's. Willow then absorbs power from dark magic books and uses it to kill Warren. In "Grave", Willow attempts to destroy the world but is talked out of it by Xander.
Season 7 (2002-2003)Edit
Willow's storyline in the seventh season begins with her on a magic retreat in England with Giles. She returns to Sunnydale and finds that she has inadvertantly made herself invisible to everyone besides Anya, who helps her. The "Big Bad" in season 7 is The First, who is bent on destroying the Slayer and the world. Buffy and the other Scoobies round up girls from all around the globe known as Potential Slayers and train them to fight demons. In the final battle, Willow uses the essence of the Scythe to imbune all of the Potential Slayers with actual Slayer abilities, which they use to defeat an entire army of UberVamps.
Comic series (2007-)Edit
Willow reveals herself to Buffy and Xander who are operating an entire Slayer organization consisting of the Potential Slayers who are now actual Slayers. Without the limitations of budget and special effects, the eight season of Buffy is able to explore more fanastic themes. Willow returns with new abilities, including being able to fly and self-heal. In 2009, a miniseries called Willow: Goddesses and Monsters was released and explored Willow's time she spent away studying her powers. Willow is still with Kennedy during season 8, but becomes intimate with Aluwyn.
Season 8 introduces a masked man named Twilight who is bent on destroying magic. After the conclusion of season 8, Buffy destroys an object known as the Seed of Wonder which is responsible for supplying the world with magic, which leaves Willow powerless. Willow also ends her relationship with Kennedy feeling guilty over her feelings for Aluwyn, who she can not communicate with.
In season 9, Willow is bent on restoring magic into the world. She has a dream which directs her to use the Scythe, as well as Connor, Angle's son, as instruments to send her to an alternate dimension where she can figure out how to restore magic. Once in an alternate dimension, she is able to access magic and travel between different dimensions. She returns to her world, where she learns that magic has been restored and that it is able to be used by all. In the final arc of season 9, Willow travels to San Francisco and uses her restored abilities to bring Dawn out of a coma, but Dawn is still close to death. Willow, Buffy and Xander head into the Deeper Well and find enough magic to restore Dawn. She is angry upon learning Xander helped villains Severin the Siphon and Slayer Simone Doffler into the Well. Once inside she begins to charge with power and starts to turn red. She thinks the magic may be enough to restore the whole world. Buffy is worried Willow appears to be becoming Dark again, but Willow says it is and always was just her and the two mend the rift that was between them ever since the end of magic. Willow is able to convince Buffy to trust her, and to leave the magical side of the conflict in her hands while Buffy faces Simone. Willow sacrifices her powers to create a new Seed of magic which will save the world but not until the next millennium. Severin is unable to turn back time with his powers and is convinced to attempt to transfer his energy to the new Seed which might restore magic immediately. As the Scoobies evacuate, Buffy dusts Simone who had became a vampire, and Severin explodes seemingly killing himself, but restoring magic. Willow returns everyone to San Francisco and uses magic and Buffy's blood to restore Dawn. Willow can sense something in the world is different and the effects of humans being sired into vampires are shown to have drastically changed.
Vamp Willow appears in "The Wish" and "Doppelgangland". She dresses provocative and is aggressive, opposite of Willow Rosenberg's temperament. It is hinted that Vamp Willow is gay or at least bisexual, which foreshadows Willow's later coming out at a lesbian herself. In "Dopplegangland", Willow says "That's me as a vampire? I'm so evil and skanky. And I think I'm kinda gay." Vamp Willow's ultimate fate was being staked by Buffy Summers.
A shadow of Dark Willow appears in the season five episode "Though Love", but does not come into full force until the final three episodes of the sixth season when Willow reverts to this persona completely in rage of vengeance over Tara's death by Warren Mears. Joss Whedon received negative criticism by fans who thought he killed Tara because she was a lesbian. Whedon, however, assured that Tara's death was rooted in homophobia, but because he need a legitimate reason for Willow to go over the edge with her struggle with addiction to magic. Whedon planned to have Tara brought back in the seventh season, however, Amber Benson was unable to film due to a conflicting schedule.
Following the events from the sixth season, Willow struggles to allow herself to use powerful magic because doing so would draw out aspects of Dark Willow. In the series finale, Willow channels the essence of the Scythe to empower all of the Potential Slayers. Ironically, using magic of that potentcy didn't draw out Dark Willow, but created a new persona which appeared as a goddess-like Willow with glowing white hair.
Willow's earliest and most consistent relationships were with Buffy and Xander, who she identifies as her best friends. Willow takes Buffy's place when she is unavailable and her growing powers make her sometimes resent being positioned as Buffy's sidekick. Willow's crush on Xander created future conflict for she, Xander, Oz and Cordelia. In the quadrent of the Scoobies, Willow represents spirit; Giles, intelligence; Xander, heart; and Buffy, strength. Although they sometimes drift apart, they are forced to come together and work to fight against unknowable evils in Sunnydale.
Willow's first genunie relationship was with Daniel Osbourne, or as everyone refered to him, Oz. They meet in the second season and Willow's lack of self-confidence causes their relationship to progress very slowly. In this season, Oz is bitten by a werewolf and becomes one himself. His struggle with turning into a werewolf every month makes Willow more confident in their relationship, as she has to restrain him and/or shoot him with a tranquilizer gun when the full moon rises. Willow is excited about her relationship with Oz. As she is so spastic and perky, Oz is calm and cool. In the third season, Willow and Xander have a private affair, which comes to light eventually, causing Willow and Oz to breifly separate. After sorting out their differences, they reunite. Willow loses her virginity to Oz the day before graduation in season three. Their relationship continues into the fourth season, with both of them in college. As the season progresses, Oz meets a fellow werewolf named Veruca, who clearly is attracted to him. Oz trys to fight his feelings for Veruca, but finds it impossible to do so when the full moon rises and the two transform together, completely forgetting what happened the night before. Veruca wants Oz to be wild and free during his transformation, but Oz believes it's better for everyone is he is continually restrained on the nights the moon is full. Oz and Veruca's passionate relationship becomes evident to Willow and subsequently ends their relationship. Oz leaves Sunnydale and travels the world seeking self-control and peace. During this time, Willow continues to embrace her Wiccan identity and meets fellow witch, Tara Maclay. As the fourth season progresses, Willow and Tara's relationship becomes more than just a friendly one. Oz returns to Sunnydale, hoping to rekindle things with Willow and she is presented with a choice: Tara or Oz. After deep thinking and consulting with Buffy, Willow chooses Tara and Oz leaves Sunnydale once again.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer becomes internationally infamous for its unabashed exploration of lesbianism between Willow and Tara. Prior to, Whedon and the writing department had been exploring the idea of making one of the characters homosexual. Xander was one of their first considerations. In 1999, the Boston Herald called Buffy the Vampire Slayer "the most gay show on network TV this year" despite having no openly gay characters at that time. Willow meets Tara in the episode "Hush", intially bonding over a mutual interest in witchcraft. Willow and Tara's lesbian relationship was presented in a round about way. There was an obvious indication that the two were in fact romantically involved, but their relationship was never concretized until Oz returned to Sunnydale and Willow was forced to choose between the two. Willow and Tara's relationship continues on in the fifth season, where they share their first kiss together. Near the end of the fifth season, Willow and Tara have their first conflict. Tara wonders off by herself and is attacked by a demoness called Glory, who is in search of something called a Key, which she believes to be Tara. Although Tara denies this, Glory believes she is lying. Once she figures out that she is not the Key, she uses her powers to make Tara insane. Willow attempts to retaliate using dark magic, but she is no match for Glory. Willow spends the remainder of the fifth season dealing with the newly-insane Tara, who inadvertantly reveals to Glory that Buffy's younger sister, Dawn, is the Key. In the season finale, Willow discovers a spell that transfers Tara's insanity into Glory, weakening her enough for Giles to kill her. The sixth season is perhaps the most terbulent period in Willow and Tara's relationship. Willow begins to overuse magic, which upsets Tara. They begin to have fights over the matter, so Willow uses a charm to make Tara forget. Tara threatens to break up with Willow if she does not quit magic for two weeks. Willow fails at this and Tara breaks up with her. Willow then becomes addicted to magic and Dawn is nearly killed in the proccess. At this point, Willow swears off magic for good. She and Tara then reunite. As the sixth season draws to a close, Tara is killed by a stray bullet fired by Warren Mears, meant for Buffy. Willow attempts a spell to bring Tara back, but she cannot be revived. Willow then resorts to dark magic to exact reveange upon Warren. Warren manages to fight Willow off, but she ultimately flays him alive and burns his corpse. As she ascends deeper and deeper into her greif, the dark magic she is using begins to consume her. She trys to resurrect a Satanic temple to end the world, but Xander stops her and revives her from her surge of darkness.
Powers and abilitiesEdit
In the first season, Willow's abilities were an advanced intellect in computer science and technology. Her abilities to hack computer systems and retrieve information not accessable to civilians allowed the Scooby Gang to acquire information about people and events in Sunnydale, which they used to solve supernatural mysteries. In the second season, Willow acquired her computer teacher's spellbooks to find the spell she once used to restore Angel's soul. During Willow's first attempt at the spell, a gang of demons attacked and Willow was left severely injured, however, she successuflly restored his soul later on in the season.
By the third season, Willow was reading more into witchcraft and magic. She also began to manifest powers, like telekinesis. Her spells, for the most part, fell through or otherwise went awry.
Beginning in the fourth season, Willow meets Tara Maclay, who is also a witch. Willow's magical talents soon begin to enhance upon practicing witchcraft with Tara.
By the fifth season, Willow had already manifested many powers, impressing the other Scoobies. She was capable of using dark magic to injure hell goddess, Glory and restore Tara back to sanity.
The sixth season explores Willow's power more. Her abilities are much more advanced that even she is aware of. Her use of magic also begins to become more of a casuality, which causes her and Tara to break up. In the sixth season, Willow is powerful enough to transform Amy back into a human. Amy, who is also a witch, introduces Willow to a warlock named Rack who deals addictive dark magic which hosts LSD-like effects to witches and supernatural beings. Willow's addiction worses until she nearly kills Dawn, Buffy's younger sister. Afterwards, Willow abstains from using magic. Her abstinence from magic, for the most part, was consistent until Tara was shot and killed by Warren Mears, after which Willow uses dark magic to kill him and nearly destroy the world.
In the seventh season, Willow spends time in England rehabilitating from her dark magic frenzy with the aid of Giles. Willow cuts her rehab short after being alerted by a powerful vision that Sunnydale would be sucked into hell. Willow returns to Sunnydale to find that Buffy, Xander and Dawn are not at the aiport to greet her or at home. Unbeknownst to Willow, she has inadvertantly used a spell which caused her to become insivible to them, with Anya the only one able to see her. During her time as invisible to Buffy, Xander and Dawn, she is attacked by a skin-eating demon. With the help of Anya, Willow is found by Buffy and Xander and she is able to lift her spell. Throughout the seventh season, Willow worries that she may accidentally slip magically and revert back to her other persona 'Dark Willow'. Some of the spells she performs causes her eyes to shift and hair to turn black, sometimes causing her personality to become more like Dark Willow. In the series finale, Willow uses the essence of the Scythe to imbune all of the potential Slayers with actual Slayer abilities.
In the eighth season (which was presented in comic book form), Willow is even more powerful, displaying new abilities like teleportation and self-healing. She has since spent time travelling other dimensions looking to learn more about her powers. During this time, she meets a snake demon who becomes her teacher.
Willow has identified many times as being Jewish and revealed that she had a bat mitzvah. However during her introduction to witchcraft, she began dabbling in Wicca and practiced with a group of Wiccans in the fourth season. However she was more interested in practicing magic than being a Wiccan. On other occasions, Willow had been refered to by others as a "Wicca".
Willow's religion and sexuality has made an impact on many audiences. Whedon, however, stated that her identities a Jew and a lesbian were not significant to the show. Throughout the series, Willow has several times reminded other characters of her sexuality and religion, for instance in the third season when she wondered if her father would approve of her hanging crosses in her house to ward off vampires. She also reminded Anya in the fifth season that she was gay when Anya suspected that Willow secretly liked Xander. The New York Times said Willow as a positive example of a Jewish woman.
When viewers realized that Willow was falling in love with Tara, Whedon rememberd a threat he recieved to the show, saying "You made Willow a fag" to which Whedon replied, "Bye. We'll miss you a whole lot." However, he also said "For every (negative) post, there's somebody saying, 'You made my life a lot easier because I now have someone I can relate to on screen."